On February 2nd, North Korea announced that it had conducted tests of long-range cruise missiles earlier this week. According to state media, the missiles were fired on Monday and Tuesday from the country’s west coast into the Yellow Sea. North Korea said the missiles carried “super large” warheads that accurately hit targets over 1,000 kilometres away. 

Tested Cruise Missiles

The Korean Central News Agency reported that the missiles demonstrated an “improved version of engine propulsion system” and their capabilities of “accurately hitting and exploding a target 2,000km away.” State media released photos showing a missile being launched from a transporter-erector-launcher and flying above the sea. No other details about the missiles were provided.

If confirmed, this would mark North Korea‘s first known tests of cruise missiles since last September. Cruise missiles are considered more accurate than ballistic missiles as they fly at a lower altitude and can maneuver more in flight, making them harder to detect and intercept. North Korea has been developing various new weapons systems, including cruise missiles, as part of its military modernization plans.

The recent tests come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States and its allies. North Korea has conducted an unusually high number of weapons tests so far this year, including its first full ICBM launch since 2017. It has also threatened to abandon its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.

In January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to continue bolstering his military forces, saying the security situation on the Korean peninsula is unstable due to threats from America. The US and others have condemned North Korea’s growing arsenal as well as its repeated violations of UN Security Council resolutions banning ballistic missile activity. 

The US, South Korea and Japan have expressed concerns over North Korea’s latest cruise missile tests. A US State Department spokesperson said they violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions and urged Pyongyang to refrain from further destabilizing acts. South Korea’s military said it was closely monitoring the situation in cooperation with the US.

Some analysts believe North Korea may conduct its seventh nuclear test in the near future as Kim works to add new weapons to his military’s arsenal. However, others think Pyongyang is still focused on developing its cruise missile program for now. Regardless, North Korea’s recent missile tests indicate that tensions will likely remain high on the peninsula throughout 2024. The international community is calling for diplomacy and dialogue to achieve denuclearization.

In summary, North Korea announced this week that it tested new long-range cruise missiles capable of accurately striking targets over 1,000km away. While more details are needed to verify its claims, the tests come during a time of increased tensions as North Korea rapidly expands its military capabilities in defiance of UN sanctions. Its growing arsenal poses serious challenges for global non-proliferation efforts and stability in Northeast Asia.