North Korea said it successfully test-fired new long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, suggesting progress in the country’s push to develop more powerful weapons that could threaten its neighbors and U.S. allies.
The tests, on Saturday and Sunday, came before a scheduled meeting this week between chief nuclear envoys from the U.S., South Korea, and Japan in Tokyo to discuss ways to restart stalled denuclearization talks with North Korea.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is also set to visit Seoul on Tuesday for a two-day stay.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Monday the launched long-range cruise missiles hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away after traveling for a little more than two hours. The range put the Korean peninsula and most of Japan in the missile’s reach.
The United Nations Security Council banned the country from testing ballistic missiles, though not cruise missiles, which are considered as less threatening because of their shorter ranges and less powerful payloads.
The launches were North Korea’s first known missile tests since it fired two short-range ballistic missiles in March, the first carried out since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.
The North Korean outlet said the tests were “a strategic weapon of great significance in meeting the key target of the five-year plan for the development of the defense science and the weapon system.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un didn’t appear to attend the launches but leading officials and scientists in the field took part, according to KCNA.
The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said on Sunday it was aware of the reports and was consulting closely with allies while monitoring the situation.
It said the activity highlights North Korea’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the “threats” that poses to neighbors and the international community.
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