North Korea boasts ‘tactical nuke’ progress
Pyongyang has claimed a successful test of a “new-type guided weapon,” allegedly designed to increase the efficiency of its “tactical nukes.” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was present to observe the launch, conducted at an undisclosed time and location.
Several undated images published by KCNA state news agency on Sunday show the firing of at least one rocket from a mobile launch platform, as well as a smiling Kim, surrounded by his generals.
“The new-type tactical guided weapon... is of great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes of the DPRK and diversification of their firepower missions,” the KCNA said.
Pyongyang has not revealed any technical details of the missile, but the test launch is said to be “successful.” One of the released photos showed dust and smoke rising from a small island.
South Korea's military later said that it had been aware and tracked two projectiles that flew around 110 kilometers at supersonic speeds into the Sea of Japan around 6pm Saturday. The incident prompted Seoul to convene a session of the presidential National Security Council on Sunday.
Congratulating the developers of the new weapon, Kim Jong-un reportedly “gave important instructions on further building up the defense capabilities and nuclear combat forces of the country.”
On Monday, North Korea marked 10 years of Kim Jong-un’s rule, with celebrations lasting the whole week, including a grand public event with fireworks on Friday to honor the 110th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather Kim Il-Sung – the nation’s founder and first leader. The country has been governed by three generations of the Kim family since 1948, and is considered to be the world's most isolated state.
During his rule, North Korea has significantly improved the country’s military prowess and conducted four of its six nuclear tests, reportedly achieving credible fission and fusion capabilities. Its long range weapon systems, which include a variety of ground, rail, and sea-based platforms, are already thought to be capable of striking as far as the US.
Last month, North Korea conducted its first full-scale ICBM test launch since 2017, putting Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington on high alert. Some officials voiced concerns that Pyongyang could conduct a new nuclear test.
The new test comes amid increased tensions in the region, and heated rhetoric after officials in South Korea visited Washington last week and reportedly requested the redeployment of a number of American strategic assets, including aircraft carriers, long-range nuclear bombers, and submarines. Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned the US military presence in the region as provocative, specifically its drills held with South Korea, seeing the exercises as rehearsals for an invasion.