North Korea test-fires new long-range cruise missile: reports

North Korea has test-fired a long-range missile, state media has claimed.

This is understood to have been the first long-range missile launch in nearly four years, since a device was fired into the Sea of Japan.

Since then Pyongyang has launched several short-range missiles, most recently in March which, according to South Korean and Japanese sources, flew 930 miles.

The timing of the test, within weeks of America’s shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan, could reflect North Korea’s belief that the Biden administration is on the back foot.

The United States military said on Sunday missile tests conducted by North Korea over the weekend posed ‘threats’ to the country’s neighbours and beyond.

"This activity highlights DPRK’s continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community," the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement, using the North’s official name.

Korean state media said the test-firing of a newly developed cruise missile was witnessed by a senior member of the Korean Workers Party – but not the party leader, Kim Jong-un.

"The development of this weapon system persistently promoted as the most important work amid the special concern of the Party Central Committee is of strategic significance as it is another effective deterrent ensuring the security of our state more firmly and overpowering powerfully the anti-DPRK military moves of the hostile forces," the state-controlled Korean news agency said.

North Korea celebrated the 73rd anniversary of its founding last week with a secretive night-time military parade that swapped its usual defiant display of ballistic missiles for rows of marching security forces in orange hazmat suits.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, North Korea resumed the operation of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in early July.

Pyongyang had offered to dismantle the site in return for the US easing sanctions when Kim met Donald Trump at a summit in February 2019.

NK Military Parade gallery

However, the effort was rejected by the former US president who demanded the complete shut down of all nuclear facilities in the country.

Experts believe that the reactivation of the nuclear reactor was an attempt to test Joe Biden’s resolve.

"We cannot rule out that the resumption of plutonium production and reprocessing at Yongbyon is Pyongyang’s way of reminding the United States of the dangers posed by the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in order to see what ‘price’ the United States might be willing to pay to freeze or shut down these facilities if negotiations resume," Evans Revere, a former state department official told Voice of America.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said on CNN that the Biden administration should seek the help of Beijing.

“We are going to have to work with the Chinese government, which has maximum leverage with North Korea, to first end this cruise missile programme and stop with these provocative measures and then perhaps some kind of talks,” Mr Krishnamoorthi said.

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