Weekend test raises alarms . . .
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s state media agency, announced on Monday that the country conducted tests on a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, the first tests undertaken since March and the third this year. KCNA reported that the new missile can hit targets 1,500 km away, including in much of Japan, and that “in all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent.” More significantly – and disconcertingly – the news agency also called the new missiles “strategic weapons of great significance” that could be used as a deterrent to counter “military manoeuvres of hostile forces.”
Cruise vs. ballistic missile tests . . .
Analysts have stated that this is the first North Korean missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead – and the regime’s use of the terminology “strategic weapon” implies it might plan to do just that. Under UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, North Korea is not allowed to conduct ballistic missile tests, although the country is technically allowed to conduct cruise missile tests like those we saw at the weekend. Ballistic missiles fly faster, higher, and farther than cruise missiles, and can carry heavier payloads. Analysts believe North Korea is proving it can develop significant and dangerous weapons vis-à-vis cruise missile technology even while under UNSC sanctions.
Countries voice concerns . . .
The U.S., Japan, and South Korea met shortly after the missile tests and agreed that “dialogue was urgent to accomplish the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” All three countries expressed concern over the tests. The U.S. stated that “this activity highlights [North Korea’s] continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbours and the international community.” South Korea commented that North Korea’s renewed missile testing “illustrates an urgent need for reviving diplomacy with the North.” Japan stated that the missiles present “a serious threat to the peace and security of Japan and its surrounding areas.”