North Korea tests new long-range missile

North Korea has tested a new long-range cruise missile capable of hitting much of Japan, state media said on Monday.

The weekend tests saw missiles travelling up to 1,500km (930 miles), the official KCNA news agency said.

It suggests North Korea is still capable of developing weapons despite food shortages and an economic crisis.

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The US military said the latest tests posed threats to the international community, and neighbouring Japan said it had “significant concerns”.

A picture in the North Korean Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a missile being fired from a launch vehicle, while another could be seen in horizontal flight.

The missiles are a “strategic weapon of great significance”, the KCNA agency said.

The tests were carried out on Saturday and Sunday, it added, with the missiles hitting their targets before falling into North Korea’s territorial waters.

It is the country’s first long-range cruise missile that could possibly carry a nuclear warhead, according to North Korea analyst Ankit Panda.

UN Security Council sanctions forbid North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, but not cruise missiles such as these.

The council considers ballistic missiles to be more threatening than cruise missiles because they can carry bigger and more powerful payloads, have a much longer range, and can fly faster.

A ballistic missile is powered by a rocket and follows an arc-like trajectory, while a cruise missile is powered by a jet engine and flies at a lower height.

Joseph Dempsey, defence researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, says the development of a cruise missile is still of concern.

“The development of a long-range cruise missile could pose additional challenges for South Korea’s missile defences.

“A cruise missile doesn’t have to follow a straight trajectory. Its flight plan may be programmed to avoid defences or use terrain to reduce detection, but we still don’t know exactly how the North Korean version navigates.”

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said the country had “significant concerns” and was working with the US and South Korea to monitor the situation.

The US military said the test showed North Korea’s “continuing focus on developing its military programme”, adding that its commitment to defending allies South Korea and Japan remained “ironclad”.

Top-level officials from the three countries are due to meet this week to discuss North Korea’s denuclearisation process. -BBC

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