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N. Korea tests first cruise missile with possible nuclear capability

SEOUL: North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media said yesterday, seen by analysts as possibly its first such weapon with a nuclear capability.

The missiles are "a strategic weapon of great significance" and flew 1,500km before hitting their targets and falling into the country's territorial waters during the tests on Saturday and Sunday, state news agency KCNA said.

The latest tests highlighted steady progress in Pyongyang's weapons programme amid a gridlock over talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in return for US sanctions relief. The talks have stalled since 2019.

'STRATEGIC' ROLE

"This would be the first cruise missile in North Korea to be explicitly designated a 'strategic' role," said senior fellow Ankit Panda at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"This is a common euphemism for nuclear-capable system," he added.

It is unclear whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to be carried on a cruise missile, but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing smaller bombs is a top goal.

Missile researcher Jeffrey Lewis, at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said intermediate-range land-attack cruise missiles were no less a threat than ballistic missiles and were a pretty serious capability for North Korea.

"This is another system that is designed to fly under missile defence radars or around them," he said on Twitter. - REUTERS

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