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North Korea tests cruise missiles with ‘super-large’ warheads in fourth round of launches in 2024 | World News


North Korea says it has tested cruise missiles fitted with new “super-large” warheads – as well as a new type of anti-aircraft missile.

The tests, reported by North Korean state media on Saturday, mark the regime’s fourth round of launches so far in 2024.

It comes a day after South Korea’s military said it detected the North launching multiple cruise missiles into waters off its western coast.

North Korean photos of the test showed a low-flying cruise missile striking a target built on a coastal shore, and another projectile soaring into the air after being launched from the ground.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not specify the number of missiles tested or the details of their performance.

The KCNA report said the cruise missiles had “super-large” warheads and were tested as part of the country’s “normal activities” for military development and did not affect the security of its neighbours.

Cruise missiles are among a growing collection of North Korean weapons designed to overwhelm regional missile defences.

They supplement the country’s vast line-up of ballistic missiles, including long-range weapons aimed at the continental United States.

Analysts say anti-aircraft missile technology is an area where North Korea could benefit from its deepening military cooperation with Russia as the two countries align in the face of their separate, intensifying confrontations with the US.

In January, North Korea conducted two tests of a new cruise missile designed to be launched from submarines, which leader Kim Jong Un described as a meaningful step towards his goal of building a nuclear-armed navy.

The North also conducted tests of a long-range cruise missile, which it has described as nuclear-capable and can cover ranges of up to 1,240 miles – potentially putting US military bases in Japan within reach.

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A TV screen in Seoul, South Korea, shows an image of North Korea's missile test. Pic: AP
A TV screen in Seoul, South Korea, shows an image of North Korea’s missile test. Pic: AP

Those cruise missile tests followed the launch of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile on 14 January, which underscored North Korean efforts to advance weapons that could target US assets in the Pacific, including the military hub of Guam.

Friday’s launches came hours after North Korean state media reported that Mr Kim reiterated his focus on strengthening his naval forces as he inspected the construction of warships at a shipyard in Nampho on the west coast.

In recent months, Mr Kim has emphasised efforts to build a nuclear-armed navy to counter what he portrays as growing threats posed by the US, South Korea and Japan, which have stepped up their military cooperation in response to his nuclear ambitions.

There are concerns that Mr Kim, emboldened by the steady advancement of his nuclear arsenal and strengthened ties with Russia, would further ramp up pressure against his rivals in an election year in the US and South Korea.

Experts say Mr Kim’s long-term goal is to force the US to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power and negotiate security concessions and sanctions relief from a position of strength.

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