SEOUL, South Korea >> North Korea said Sunday it has successfully test-fired a newly developed tactical guided weapon, the latest in a spate of launches that came just after the country passed its biggest state anniversary without an expected military parade, which it typically uses to unveil provocative weapons systems.
The latest testing activity came amid concerns that North Korea may soon conduct a larger provocation like a nuclear explosive test in an effort to expand the country’s nuclear arsenal and increase pressure on its rivals amid stalled diplomacy.
The official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un observed the launch, which it said would bolster the effective operation of the country’s tactical nuclear forces and firepower of its long-range artillery corps.
The dispatch suggested the weapon tested is likely capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, but KCNA didn’t elaborate. It also didn’t say when and where the launch occurred.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Sunday that it had detected two projectile launches from the North’s eastern coastal town of Hamhung early Saturday evening.
It said the projectiles flew about 110 kilometers (68 miles) at an apogee of 25 kilometers (16 miles) and at a maximum speed of Mach 4. The statement said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are analyzing additional details of the launches. It said South Korean officials separately held an emergency meeting to discuss the launches.
North Korea has started this year with a slew of weapons tests, including its first flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. South Korean and U.S. officials said Pyongyang could soon launch additional provocations like another ICBM test, a rocket launch to put a spy satellite into orbit or even a nuclear test explosion that would be the seventh of its kind. South Korea’s military said it has detected signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground it partially dismantled weeks before it entered now-dormant nuclear talks with the United States in 2018.
Sunday’s KCNA dispatch quoted Kim as presenting unspecified tasks to boost North Korea’s nuclear fighting and military capability after praising what he called successive progress in its efforts to reinforce the country’s war deterrence power.
On Friday, Kim attended a massive civilian parade in Pyongyang that marked the milestone 110th birth anniversary of his state-founding grandfather, Kim Il Sung. It appeared the country passed its biggest holiday without an expected military parade to showcase its new weapons systems.