North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the test-firing of a new weapon system that will increase the effectiveness of his tactical nuclear weapons, state media said on Sunday, capping celebrations surrounding the birthday of the founder of the country.
The launch is the latest in an unprecedented series of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including the firing of a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month.
The new tactical guided weapon “is of great importance for radically improving the firepower of long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency of the exploitation of tactical nuclear weapons”, the official news agency said. KCNA.
KCNA added that the test was successful, without specifying the exact date or the place where this test firing was carried out.
The South Korean armed forces headquarters said it detected two projectiles launched late Saturday, which flew a distance of 110 km at 25 km altitude with a speed of about Mach 4.
The United States said it was “aware” of North Korea’s statement about the test and was monitoring the situation, a Pentagon spokesman said.
Photos published by the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a smiling Kim surrounded by uniformed officials and cheering as he watched what was described as the weapon’s test firing.
The leader gave the military research team “important instructions on the continued strengthening of defense capabilities and nuclear combat forces”, added the KCNA agency.
Short-range ballistic missile
Analysts say the weapon is a new, but no less important, short-range ballistic missile. “This test of a tactical nuclear delivery device comes amid growing indications of major reconstruction work at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea,” said Ankit Panda, senior research fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Satellite imagery has shown signs of new activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, which North Korea says was demolished in 2018 ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit.
North Korea celebrated the 110th birthday of North Korea’s founding leader, Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on Friday with a huge public procession, fireworks and synchronized dancing – but no military parade as predicted by many observers.
South Korean and American analysts and officials had also believed that a nuclear test was possible on this important anniversary.
The celebrations came three weeks after Pyongyang’s biggest ever intercontinental ballistic missile test, a first since 2017.
At a key party convention in January 2021, Kim laid out a five-year defense development plan, calling for the development of superior nuclear technology and the manufacture of smaller and lighter nuclear weapons for “use more tactical.
The remarks signal a return to nuclear testing and Kim’s rare presence at the launch of a short-range missile, a first in more than two years, suggests “special significance”, according to Panda.
Towards a seventh try?
Last month’s test marked the end of a self-imposed moratorium on long-range and nuclear testing, which had been suspended after Kim met with then-US President Donald Trump.
Officials and analysts say North Korea could conduct its seventh nuclear test in the coming weeks.
Satellite images showed signs of new activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which North Korea says was demolished in 2018 ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit.
North Korea has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006 and touted the success of its latest and most powerful in 2017, a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.
With a new nuclear test, experts believe Pyongyang will seek to miniaturize the nuclear warheads to be mounted on its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
South Korean officials have said Pyongyang could still hold a military parade or carry out a weapons test on or around April 25, the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army.
This anniversary coincides with the joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington, which are due to begin on Monday.
South Korea and the United States regularly hold military exercises, but Pyongyang has regularly protested against these exercises by denouncing preparations for a war.
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