Pyongyang on Friday hailed the successful test of a new type of surface-to-ship cruise missile, which it said was designed to hit “any enemy group of battleships” that threatened North Korea.
The launch Thursday — the North’s fifth weapons test in a month — was overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, and came less than a week after the United Nations tightened sanctions against the Stalinist regime.
“The launched cruise rockets accurately detected and hit the floating targets on the East Sea of Korea,” KCNA said, referring to the Sea of Japan — where two US aircraft carriers were on naval manoeuvres last week.
The USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan led the three-day exercises that ended on June 3, with a total of a dozen US ships participating along with two Japanese vessels, in a show of force directed at North Korea.
The US has stepped up its muscle-flexing in the region, with a US nuclear submarine, the 6,900-ton USS Cheyenne, whose home port is Pearl Harbor, also arriving in the South Korean port of Busan Tuesday.
North Korea’s top newspaper Rodong Sinmun ran a front-page photo of a beaming Kim surrounded by smiling generals in uniform, with further pictures inside apparently showing the cruise missiles being launched from the back of a tank-like vehicle, and hitting ships at sea.
North Korea has ordered three ballistic missile launches, a surface-to-air missile, and now Thursday’s cruise missile tests since South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in took power in early May.
Thursday’s short-range missiles flew some 200 kilometres (124 miles), which is an improvement on a 2015 test, when a surface-to-ship cruise missile flew only 100 kilometres, said Korea Defence Forum analyst Shin Jong-Woo.
“This is another sign of meaningful progress in the North’s efforts to diversify its missiles. It will pose a considerable threat to US and South Korean navies,” he told AFP.
The new cruise missile represents a “a step forward in terms of accuracy and range”, analyst Kim Dong-Yub of the Kyungnam University Institute for Far Eastern Studies told AFP.
KCNA said the weapon tested Thursday had been part of the military parade in Pyongyang on April 15 to mark the birthday of the North’s founding father Kim Il-Sung.
All of the weapons on display at the extravagant military parade have been tested in the past month, except for one that analysts said appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile,