North Korea has launched four strategic cruise missiles as part of a military drill that state media said was designed to demonstrate its ability to conduct a nuclear counterattack.
The launches came as the United States and South Korea held a simulated military exercise in Washington, DC, aimed at sharpening their response to North Korean nuclear threats.
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The four Hwasal-2 missiles were launched from the area of Kim Chaek City in North Hamgyong Province, towards the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language report.
They hit a preset target after travelling “2,000km-long [1,243-mile] elliptical and eight-shaped flight orbits for 10,208 seconds to 10,224 seconds,” it added.
North Korea first tested a long-range cruise missile system in September 2021 and has since described the weapons as “strategic”, suggesting that they are being developed with the intent to arm them with nuclear warheads.
The latest launches successfully demonstrated the war readiness of North Korea’s nuclear combat forces, which are strengthening their “lethal nuclear counterattack capabilities against hostile forces,” KCNA said.
South Korea’s military said it was analysing the North’s claim of the launches.
“South Korean and U.S. reconnaissance and surveillance assets were closely monitoring the relevant area at the time (of the drills) the North claims,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, according to the Yonhap news agency. “An analysis is underway on various possibilities, including whether the North’s claim is true or not.”
Officials in South Korea and Japan often detect and publicly report North Korean launches.
North Korea has forged ahead with developing and mass producing new missiles, despite longstanding United Nations sanctions over its nuclear weapons programmes.