North Korea tests cruise missiles designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons

North Korea has tested two « long-range strategic cruise missiles » in the presence of leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported on Thursday, adding that they were designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons.

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In recent weeks, Kim Jong Un has overseen a series of ballistic missile launches, described by Pyongyang as tactical nuclear exercises simulating the destruction of airports and military installations in South Korea.

The launch of two cruise missiles on Wednesday is aimed at boosting the combat effectiveness of these weapons which have been « deployed in units of the Korean People’s Army for the operation of tactical nuclear weapons », the agency said on Thursday. North Korean official press KCNA.

These two projectiles, which flew at much lower altitudes than ballistic missiles, traveled 2,000 kilometers over the Yellow Sea before reaching their target, KCNA said.

North Korea tests cruise missiles designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons

Northern leader Kim Jong Un expressed « great satisfaction » at the outcome of the tests, which were intended to show that nuclear combat forces are « preparing for real war » and to send a « clear warning to enemies », said KCNA.

With talks long stalled and the conflict in Ukraine preventing the United Nations from adopting new sanctions, Mr Kim has stepped up efforts to develop and test his banned nuclear arsenal.

Both Seoul and Washington have been warning for months against the risk of Pyongyang carrying out a nuclear test, which would be the seventh for North Korea.

North Korea tests cruise missiles designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons

The leader said that North Korea will « focus all its efforts on the continued and accelerated development of the national combat nuclear armed forces », the agency added on Thursday.

Cruise missile tests are not banned by the UN unlike the ballistic missile launches that South Korea and Japan generally report. Neither country reported on Wednesday’s trial.

North Korea tests cruise missiles designed to carry tactical nuclear weapons

Kim Jong Un made the acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons – smaller, lighter weapons designed for use on the battlefield – a top priority at a key Party congress in January 2021.

He promised this year to develop North Korea’s nuclear forces as quickly as possible.

“Probably less efficient”

« This latest test means the North is operating a tactical nuclear capability on cruise missiles, which are more difficult to detect due to their low-altitude flight, » Hong Min of the Korea Institute told AFP. for national unity.

« It’s a testament to Pyongyang’s ability to launch nuclear warheads, » he added, noting that cruise missiles can also have erratic flight paths, making them more difficult to intercept.

Last month, the reclusive country revised its nuclear doctrine to allow for preemptive strikes.

In addition, Mr. Kim declared North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power, which ended any possibility of negotiation over its arsenal.

Since then, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have stepped up their combined military drills, including twice deploying a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the region, provoking the ire of Pyongyang, which consistently denounces the drills as rehearsals of invasion.

In response, the North staged « real war » maneuvers, simulating strikes against South Korea’s ports, airports and military command facilities, KCNA said on Monday.

North Korea has tested « strategic » cruise missiles before, but this is the first time it has claimed they have a nuclear role and are operational.

Analysts, however, question Pyongyang’s claims, saying they do not have proof that the country is able to manufacture sufficiently small nuclear warheads.

« North Korea’s cruise missiles, air force, and tactical nuclear devices are likely much worse than the propaganda suggests, » said Ewha University professor Leif-Eric Easley. Seoul.

« The Kim regime is sometimes surprisingly transparent about weapons development goals, but it also tends to exaggerate strength and capabilities, » he said.


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