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North Korea test-fires two long-range cruise missiles

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An image of a hypersonic missile test in January. (Photo by KCNA)

North Korea has test-fired a pair of long-range strategic cruise missiles, North Korean state media say, calling it a test to confirm the reliability and operability of nuclear-capable weapons.

The test, which took place on Wednesday, was aimed at “enhancing the combat efficiency and might” of cruise missiles deployed to the Korean People’s Army “for the operation of tactical nukes,” state media KCNA reported on Thursday morning.

The cruise missiles — which travels at much lower altitudes than ballistic missiles, making them harder to detect and intercept — traveled 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) over the sea Wednesday before hitting their targets, KCNA said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country’s nuclear combat forces were at “full preparedness for actual war” and said that the tests were another warning to the country’s enemies.

The country “should continue to expand the operational sphere of the nuclear strategic armed forces to resolutely deter any crucial military crisis and war crisis at any time and completely take the initiative in it,” Kim said.

Kim made acquiring tactical nukes — smaller, lighter weapons designed for battlefield use — a top priority at a key party congress in January 2021, and this year vowed to develop North Korea’s nuclear forces at the fastest speed.

Pyongyang revised its nuclear laws last month, outlining a wide array of scenarios in which it could test-launch its nuclear weapons, with Kim declaring North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of negotiations over its arsenal.

North Korea also released multiple photographs of the recent missile launches, tests, and exercises, demonstrating Kim’s presence on site while overseeing them all, giving orders and posing with smiling soldiers.

On October 4, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan, the fifth launch in 10 days.

KCNA said the missile tests were in response to recent naval drills between the US, South Korea, and Japan, which involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

It was the latest in a series of launches that have increased tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula and heightened Western concerns Pyongyang might be about to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

North Korea last tested a nuclear bomb at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in 2017; and last week, the Pentagon assessed that North Korea was preparing for another nuclear test.

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