North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un personally saw the launch of two long-range strategic cruise missiles in a provocative move intended to show the Hermit Kingdom’s military prowess.
North Korean state media referred to the launches on Thursday as a test to confirm the operation of North Korea’s nuclear-capable weapons.
The firing, which was conducted on Wednesday was directed at “enhancing the combat efficiency and might” of North Korea’s cruise missiles used by the Korean People’s Army, “for the operation of tactical nukes,” state media organization KCNA reported.
In a statement that was published by KCNA and reported by Reuters, Kim Jong Un said that the test launch was designed as a warning to North Korea’s “enemies” and that 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.”
North Korean state media claims that Kim guided the missile exercises targeting South Korea over the past two weeks as a response to joint naval drills by South Korean and U.S. forces in the region.
According to KCNA, the two missiles on Wednesday flew for 10,234 seconds and hit their target 2,000 km away.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's office downplayed the threat posed by the missiles, stating that they are “slow enough to be intercepted,” and that the South Korean military is eager to respond to provocations from the North with “overwhelming forces.”
As reported by Reuters, the test on Wednesday confirms that North Korea possesses operational strategic cruise missiles, but it remains to be determined if the country can build warheads small enough to fit them.
The missiles are considered to be among a number of tactical weapons developed by North Korea to fly low and maneuver to evade missile defense systems.
Unlike intercontinental ballistic missiles, North Korea’s cruise missiles are now banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions and do not pose a threat to the United States’ territories, such as Guam and Hawaii.