N Korea missile progress poses serious ‘threat’

North Korea test-fired a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media reported yesterday, with the United States saying the nuclear-armed country was threatening its neighbors and beyond.

Pictures in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a missile exiting one of five tubes on a launch vehicle in a ball of flame, and a missile in horizontal flight.

Such a weapon would represent a marked advance in North Korea’s weapons technology, analysts said, better able to avoid defense systems to deliver a warhead across South Korea or Japan.

The test launches took place on Saturday and Sunday, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The missiles traveled 1,500 kilometers in two-hour flight paths – including figure-of-eight patterns – above North Korea and its territorial waters to hit their targets, said KCNA.

Its report called the missile a “strategic weapon of great significance,” adding it gave the country another effective deterrence means against hostile forces.

North Korea is under international sanctions for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which it says it needs to defend against a US invasion.

But Pyongyang is not banned from developing cruise missiles.

As described, the missile “poses a considerable threat,” said Park Won Gon, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University. “If the North has sufficiently miniaturized a nuclear warhead, it can be loaded onto a cruise missile as well.”

The launch was a response to joint South Korea-US military drills last month, he said.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the reports highlighted North Korea’s “continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community.”

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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