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North Korea test-fires long-range strategic cruise missiles: state media

#North #Korea #testfires #longrange #strategic #cruise #missiles #state #media

North Korea has test-fired a pair of long-range strategic cruise missiles, with leader Kim Jong Un hailing another successful display of the country’s tactical nuclear strike capability, state media reported Thursday.

It was the latest in a series of provocative weapons tests that have sent tensions soaring on the Korean peninsula — and heightened fears that Pyongyang might conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.

Kim personally oversaw Wednesday’s tests of the missiles, which traveled 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) over the sea, the Korean Central News Agency said. It said the projectiles hit their intended targets but did not specify what they were.

The North Korean leader expressed “great satisfaction” with the tests, which were designed to boost combat efficiency of the missiles “deployed at the units of the Korean People’s Army for the operation of tactical nukes,” KCNA said.

North Korea said this week its recent missile tests involved “tactical nuclear” drills to simulate hitting the South.

Kim said after Wednesday’s tests that North Korea must “expand the operational sphere of the nuclear strategic armed forces,” KCNA said.

“Kim Jong Un stressed that we should focus all efforts on the endless and accelerating development of the national nuclear combat armed forces,” it said.

Kim made acquiring tactical nukes — smaller, lighter weapons designed for battlefield use — a top priority at a key party congress in January 2021, and this year vowed to develop North Korea’s nuclear forces at the fastest possible speed.

– Military drills –

The country revised its nuclear laws last month to allow preemptive strikes, with Kim declaring North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power — effectively ending the possibility of negotiations over its arsenal.

Since then, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have ramped up combined military exercises, including deploying a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier to the area twice, infuriating Pyongyang, which sees such drills as rehearsals for invasion.

In response, North Korea “decided to organise military drills under the simulation of an actual war” that gamed out hitting South Korea’s ports, airports and military command facilities, KCNA said Monday.

North Korean army units involved in “the operation of tactical nukes staged military drills from September 25 to October 9 in order to check and assess the war deterrent and nuclear counterattack capability”, the agency said.

Kim oversaw these tests as well, it said.

This report also said that North Korea’s October 4 missile launch, which flew over Japan and prompted rare evacuation warnings, involved a “new-type ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile”.

The volley of KCNA statements about the country’s recent tests — which are unusual, as state media no longer routinely comments on launches — indicates Pyongyang is concerned about the recent US-led joint drills, analysts say.

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