The country declared in a message sent early Monday local time that test launches of the newly developed missiles struck targets 932 miles away on Saturday and Sunday, according to the Korean Central News Agency. State media published photos of a projectile being fired from a launcher truck and what looked like a missile traveling in the air.
The Hermit Kingdom hailed the missiles as “strategic weapon(s) of great significance,” wording that implies they were developed with the intent to arm them with nuclear warheads. North Korea says it needs nuclear weapons in order to deter what it claims is hostility from the U.S. and South Korea — and has long attempted to use the threat of such an arsenal to extract much-needed economic aid or otherwise apply pressure.
The North and ally China faced off against South Korea and U.S.-led U.N. forces in the 1950-53 Korean War, a conflict that ended in an armistice that has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty.
The international community is bent on getting the North to abandon its nuclear arsenal and has long used a combination of the threat of sanctions and the promise of economic help to try to influence the North. But U.S.-led negotiations on the nuclear issue have been stalled since the collapse of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019. At that time, the Americans rejected Kim’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear complex.
The reported weekend launch was North Korea’s first known testing activity since March. North Korea previously ended a yearlong pause in ballistic tests in March by firing two short-range missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations to measure Washington’s response.
There hadn’t been any known test launches for months since March, as Kim focused his efforts on fending off the coronavirus and salvaging an economy damaged by sanctions, bad flooding in recent summers, and border closures amid the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have warned that the economic situation is dire, although monitoring groups have yet to detect signs of mass starvation or major instability.
The United States keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the Korean War.
Nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have come to a stand still since a 2019 summit between then-President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Talks hit a wall after the US had rejected North Korea’s demand for major sanctions relief in return to a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. There has been no progress under the Biden administration with North Korea rejecting any chances at a dialogue and demanding the US government first abandon its “hostile” policies.