North Korea says it successfully test fired newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months, underscoring how it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States. The Korean Central News Agency said Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, demonstrated an ability to hit targets 932 miles away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday, the AP reports. The North hailed its new missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance” that meets leader Kim Jong Un’s call to strengthen the country’s military might, implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads. North Korean state media published photos of a projectile being fired from a launcher truck and an apparent missile with wings and tail fins traveling in the air.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analyzing the North Korean launches based on US and South Korean intelligence. The US Indo-Pacific Command said it was monitoring the situation with allies and that the North Korean activity reflects a continuing focus on “developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community.” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said North Korean missiles of such range would pose a “serious threat to the peace and safety of Japan and its surrounding areas," and that the country is "extremely concerned." KCNA said the missiles tested over the weekend traveled for 126 minutes “along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits” above North Korean land and waters before hitting their targets.
“The test launches showed that the technical indices such as the thrust power of the newly developed turbine-blast engine, the missiles’ navigation control and the end guided hit accuracy by the combined guided mode met the requirements of designs. In all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent,” it said. It appeared that Kim wasn’t in attendance to observe the tests. KCNA said Kim’s top military official, Pak Jong Chon, observed the test-firings and called for the country’s defense scientists to go “all out to increase” the North’s military capabilities. (Read more North Korea stories.)