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North Korea announces testing of new cruise missile as arms race escalates

SEOUL – North Korea on Monday announced that it had successfully launched newly developed long-range cruise missiles, its first missile test in six months and a new indication that an arms race between North Korea and Korea South was intensifying on the Korean Peninsula.

In tests that took place on Saturday and Sunday, the North Korean missiles struck targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away after flying for more than two hours, the official North Korean Central News Agency said. The missiles changed course and circled before hitting their targets, he added.

A series of United Nations Security Council resolutions banned North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles. A northern cruise missile test usually does not raise as much alarm as its ballistic missile tests. The country’s public media also reported that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, did not attend the weekend’s tests, although he has generally overseen all major weapons tests in recent years.

The latest tests have shown that North Korea continues to improve its missile arsenal as nuclear disarmament talks with the United States remain at a standstill. North Korea said on Monday that the long-range cruise missile was “a strategic weapon of great importance” and was part of a weapons development target announced by Kim at the party convention in January.

According to the state media announcement, the new missiles provided North Korea with another effective deterrent against “hostile forces’ military maneuvers.”

South Korea and the United States conducted a nine-day joint military exercise in August. The joint exercises of the two allies have often prompted North Korea to conduct its own military exercises or weapons tests. The North’s tests also came as South Korea rapidly increased its own buildup of weapons.

South Korea successfully tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile this month. Although its officials declined to reveal details, local media reported that the SLBM was launched from the newly built Dosan Ahn Changho-class attack submarine. North Korea began testing its submarine-launched ballistic missiles in 2015, registering the “biggest hit” the following year.

While international negotiations have made little progress to prevent North Korea from expanding its arsenal of weapons, South Korea has embarked on building more powerful missiles and missile defense systems to counter North Korean threats. .

In recent years, the United States has relaxed so-called missile guidelines that placed limits on the range and weight of ballistic missile warheads that South Korea was allowed to develop. After North Korea launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in 2017, then President Donald J. Trump lifted the payload limit on South Korean ballistic missiles. At the summit meeting in May between President Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, the allies agreed to end the missile guidelines, leaving South Korea free to develop longer missiles. scope.

North Korea has reacted angrily to the removal of missile restrictions, calling it a “stark reminder of hostile US policies.”

Removing the limits allows South Korea to build ballistic missiles with larger warheads that wield destructive power and that can target underground bunkers where North Korea keeps its nuclear arsenal and its leaders would hide in war, military analysts said.

When Mr. Moon visited his Defense Department’s Defense Development Agency last year, he said South Korea had “developed a short-range ballistic missile with one of the largest warheads to the world, “an apparent reference to the Hyunmoo-4, which missile experts say it can cover all of North Korea with a two-ton payload.

When North Korea last conducted a missile test on March 25, it said it launched a new ballistic missile with a 2.5-ton warhead. This month, reports surfaced in South Korean media that the South was developing an even more powerful weapon: a short-range ballistic missile with a payload of up to three tons.

The accumulation of tit-for-tat weapons has signaled that rival armies are arming themselves with increasingly powerful missiles that can fly farther and carry more destructive power, and which are more difficult to intercept.

“We will develop more powerful, longer range and more precise missiles to exert deterrence and bring security and peace to the Korean peninsula,” the South Korean defense ministry said this month. .

North Korea announced its latest missile tests two days before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss bilateral ties and the end of the nuclear disarmament talks.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula rose sharply in 2017, when North Korea tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles and carried out its sixth underground nuclear test, resulting in United Nations sanctions. After the tests, the country claimed the ability to target the continental United States with a nuclear warhead.

Mr. Trump met Mr. Kim three times between 2018 and 2019, but the two leaders failed to come to an agreement on sanctions and the northern nuclear and missile programs.

In military parades last October and January, North Korea unveiled what appeared to be new intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The United Nations nuclear watchdog said last month the country appeared to have restarted a reactor at its main nuclear complex.

But North Korea has refrained from testing an ICBM or nuclear device since 2017. Its latest military parade, held Thursday to mark the government’s 73rd anniversary, did not feature new weapons.

nytimes Gt