North Korea announced today that it has successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile, which it claims is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The test represents a concerning advancement of North Korea’s weapons capabilities and further raises tensions on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea Hails Test as Strategic Weapon Breakthrough
According to state media reports, North Korea test-fired the new cruise missile on Wednesday, referring to it as an “important breakthrough in developing the state’s strategic weapons.”
The missile, named the Pukguksong-3, was described as a “strategic weapon of great significance” that meets the country’s needs for enhanced military capabilities.
Details on Missile Capabilities
While full technical details on the new missile have not been released, North Korea claimed it traveled for over 2 hours and flew a distance of 1,500 km (930 miles) over the country before accurately hitting its target.
If confirmed, this range would allow the missile to reach all of South Korea and Japan. North Korea also explicitly stated the missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The successful test launch was reportedly overseen by senior North Korean military officials. State media trumpeted the test as validating the country’s ability to counter “hostile forces.”
South Korea and US Detect Multiple Missile Launches
Shortly after North Korea publicized its account of the weapon test, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) confirmed that North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles off its west coast town of Onchon early Thursday morning.
The JCS said it detected the launch of 3 short-range ballistic missiles at around 6:10 am and 9:30 am local time. The missiles traveled approximately 150 km (90 miles) at an altitude of 20 km and a speed of Mach 5.
In a statement, the JCS said South Korea is maintaining readiness posture in close coordination with the United States.
Regional Reactions Emphasize Need for Diplomacy
The latest North Korean missile test prompted strong reactions from regional powers and calls for restraint. The White House press secretary emphasized that the launch underscores the “urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy,” adding that the US will take all necessary measures to ensure security.
Similarly, South Korea issued a stern warning that a “strong response” from the international community is required and that North Korea will face consequences for further provocations.
Meanwhile, China advised calm and restraint from all sides, underscoring that “military adventurism is in nobody’s interest.”
Escalating Tensions After Liaison Office Destruction
This latest weapons test comes on the heels of North Korea demolishing an inter-Korean liaison office building just across the borders on Tuesday and severing communication hotlines with South Korea on Wednesday.
The destruction of the liaison office ends nearly all cooperation between the two Koreas and is a major setback to relations. The building was opened in 2018 as part of reconciliation efforts between the historic rivals.
Timeline of Recent North Korean Provocations
North Korea’s actions this week are the culmination of a steady drumbeat of provocations over the last few months aimed at increasing pressure and gaining negotiating leverage against its adversaries.
Timeline of Recent North Korean Provocations
|Short-range ballistic missile tests
|Long-range cruise missile test
|ICBM engine test; hints at nuclear test
|Threatens to take “unprecedented” military action
|Blows up liaison office with South Korea
Next Steps: Nuclear Test or Negotiations?
Kim Jong Un is likely taking a familiar path – escalating tensions through weapons tests and aggressive rhetoric before pivoting to negotiations for sanctions relief.
However, North Korea is also potentially laying the groundwork for more serious provocations like a nuclear or long-range missile test. US and South Korean officials have been warning for months that North Korea may conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
With each advancement, North Korea improves its ability to make good on threats to strike regional allies and potentially even the American homeland. How the US, South Korea, Japan and China respond to this latest missile test will be consequential in determining whether tensions continue rising or open a path for diplomacy.
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