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The North normally showcases missiles — whether real or models — at such parades, but this time, the biggest weapons on display were artillery pieces dragged by tractors. — Reuters pic
The North normally showcases missiles — whether real or models — at such parades, but this time, the biggest weapons on display were artillery pieces dragged by tractors. — Reuters pic

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SEOUL, Sept 13 — North Korea has test-fired what it called a new type of “long-range cruise missile” over the weekend, the country’s state Korean Central News Agency reported early today, amid a long standoff with the United States over denuclearisation.

The test launches, which took place on both Saturday and yesterday, were observed by high-level officials, KCNA said, adding that the tests had been carried out “successfully”.

The missiles travelled for 7,580 seconds along “oval and pattern-8 flight orbits” above North Korea and its territorial waters, and hit targets 1,500 kilometres (about 930 miles) away, KCNA said.

The report called the missile a “strategic weapon of great significance”, adding that “in all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent”.

It also said the development of the missile system held “strategic significance”, giving North Korea “another effective deterrence means” for protecting the state and aiding in “strongly containing the military maneuvers of the hostile forces”.

The Pentagon did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the reported test launches, which came just a few days after a scaled-back parade in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd anniversary of the country’s founding.

The North normally showcases missiles — whether real or models — at such parades, but this time, the biggest weapons on display were artillery pieces dragged by tractors.

The weekend missile test launches are the first by North Korea since March.

Pyongyang has not carried out a nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile launch since 2017.

Standstill

Pyongyang is under a range of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which it continues to pursue.

Nuclear talks with the United States have been stalled since the collapse of a 2019 summit in Hanoi between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-president Donald Trump over sanctions relief — and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.

Current US President Joe Biden’s North Korea envoy Sung Kim has repeatedly expressed his willingness to meet his Pyongyang counterparts “anywhere, at any time”.

But the impoverished North has never shown any indication it would be willing to surrender its nuclear arsenal, and has rebuffed South Korean efforts to revive dialogue.

Last month, the UN atomic agency (IAEA) said Pyongyang appeared to have started its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor at Yongbyon, calling it a “deeply troubling” development, and Kim’s sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula.

Last week, South Korea tested a homegrown submarine-launched ballistic missile — a technology the North has long sought to develop.

The North showed off four such devices at a military parade overseen by Kim in January, with KCNA calling them “the world’s most powerful weapon”.

But while North Korea has released pictures of underwater launches, most recently in 2019, analysts believe that was from a fixed platform or submersible barge, rather than a submarine. — AFP

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