North Korea said on Monday it had successfully test-fired two cruise missiles from a submarine, demonstrating its ability to strike targets at long distances with nuclear weapons.
The tests, which took place on Sunday, coincided with the start of joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea, which Pyongyang considers a provocation and a rehearsal for invasion.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the missiles were launched from a newly developed submarine in the waters off the east coast of North Korea and flew for more than 1,500 kilometers before hitting their targets.
KCNA said the tests were carried out under the guidance of leader Kim Jong Un, who expressed great satisfaction with the results and praised the scientists and engineers involved.
The tests marked the first time North Korea has fired cruise missiles from a submarine, which experts say poses a new challenge for its adversaries as they are harder to detect and intercept than ballistic missiles.
Cruise missiles fly at low altitudes and can maneuver around obstacles, while ballistic missiles follow a fixed trajectory and are easier to track.
The tests also showed that North Korea has continued to advance its weapons programs despite a prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks with the United States, which have stalled since 2019.
The US and South Korea said they were aware of the missile launches and were closely monitoring the situation.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the tests highlighted North Korea’s “destabilizing impact” and urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the tests violated UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.
The US and South Korea began their annual military drills on Monday, involving about 28,500 US troops and 600,000 South Korean soldiers.
The drills, which will last for nine days, are mainly computer-simulated and scaled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
North Korea has denounced the drills as a “war game” and a “grave threat” to its security and sovereignty.