North Korea successfully conducted tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media KCNA said, amid a prolonged standoff with the United States over the denuclearization.
The missiles traveled 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling in the country’s territorial waters during tests held on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said. The missiles traveled for 7,580 seconds along “oval and type 8 flight orbits,” he said.
It was considered the North’s first missile launch after testing a new short-range tactical ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after US President Joe Biden took office in January.
The latest test highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang’s weapons program amid a standoff over talks to dismantle the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for US sanctions relief. Discussions have stalled since 2019.
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, published photos of the new long-range cruise missile flying and fired from a transporter-assembler-launcher.
The missile is a strategic weapon that has been developed over the past two years and a key part of a five-year plan set out in January to advance defense science and arsenals, KCNA said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un does not appear to have attended the test, with KCNA claiming that Pak Jong Chon, a member of the powerful Workers’ Party political bureau and secretary of its central committee, supervised it.
The reclusive North has long accused the United States and South Korea of ”hostile policies” towards Pyongyang.
The unveiling of the test came just a day before key nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan met in Tokyo to explore ways to break the stalemate with North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also due to travel to Seoul on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.
Talks to dismantle the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for US sanctions relief have stalled since 2019.
Last month, the UN atomic watchdog said North Korea appeared to have restarted a nuclear reactor that is widely believed to have produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.
The Biden administration has declared itself open to diplomacy to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea, but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.
Sung Kim, the US envoy to North Korea, said in Seoul in August that he was ready to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, anytime.”
A reactivation of inter-Korean hotlines in July raised hopes for a restart of negotiations, but the North has stopped responding to calls as the annual South Korea-U.S. Military exercises began last month, which , Pyongyang said, could trigger a security crisis.