North Korea has test-fired four long-range cruise missiles as part of a military drill to demonstrate its ability to conduct a nuclear counterattack. The missiles, known as Hwasal-2, 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) reported that the missiles hit a preset target after travelling “2,000km-long elliptical and eight-shaped flight orbits for 10,208 seconds to 10,224 seconds”.
North Korea has previously 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,” according to KCNA.
The launches come 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. The increase in weapons tests by North Korea also coincides with the US and South Korea stepping up military training.
Despite longstanding United Nations sanctions over its nuclear weapons programmes, North Korea has continued to forge ahead with developing and mass producing new missiles. Last weekend, it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile and on Monday launched a pair of short-range missiles into the sea off its eastern coast.
South Korea’s military said it was analysing the North’s claim of the launches, while officials in South Korea and Japan often detect and publicly report North Korean launches. The situation remains tense, with the international community concerned about North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear programme and its ability to launch long-range missiles.