North Korea: Expert discusses 'new strategic weapon'
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North Korea’s state media announced on Monday what it said were successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile that analysts said could be the country’s first such weapon with nuclear capabilities. “The recent developments in the DPRK are a reminder of the importance of close communication and cooperation from the three countries,” Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, said in his opening remarks, using the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its official name.
The three countries have been discussing ways to break a standoff with North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have drawn international sanctions.
In meeting with his Japanese counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi and South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk, Kim said Washington remained open to diplomacy to deal with North Korea issues.
The three agreed “dialogue and diplomacy was urgent to accomplish the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Denuclearisation has been a goal, although not clearly defined, since former U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in 2018.
South Korea and the United States also discussed ways to engage Pyongyang, including the possibility of a joint humanitarian project in North Korea, South Korea’s foreign ministry added, without providing further details.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is still prepared to engage with Pyongyang despite the recent missile test, but has so far shown no willingness to ease sanctions.
Pyongyang has said it sees no sign of policy changes from the United States, citing issues such as sanctions as well as joint military drills with South Korea, which it says are preparation for an attack.
While Washington is a close military and economic ally of both Japan and South Korea, ties between the Asian neighbours have often been strained over issues including sovereignty disputes, Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean peninsula, and their wartime history.
Any joint approach to dealing with North Korea would also need to consider China, the reclusive state’s main backer.
Senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi is scheduled to visit Seoul this week and hold meetings with South Korean foreign minister.
North Korea carried out successful tests of a new long-range cruise missile over the weekend, state media said on Monday, seen by analysts as possibly the country’s first such weapon with a nuclear capability.
The missiles are “a strategic weapon of great significance” and flew 1,500 km (930 miles) before hitting their targets and falling into the country’s territorial waters during the tests on Saturday and Sunday, KCNA said.
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The latest test 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.
North Korea’s cruise missiles usually generate less interest than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under U.N. Nations Security Council Resolutions.
Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: ”This would be the first cruise missile in North Korea to be explicitly designated a ‘strategic’ role.
“This is a common euphemism for nuclear-capable system.”
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.
The two Koreas have been locked in an accelerating arms race that analysts fear will leave the region littered with powerful new missiles.
South Korea’s military did not disclose whether it had detected the North’s latest tests, but said on Monday it was conducting a detailed analysis in cooperation with the United States.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said it was aware of the reports and was coordinating with its allies and partners.
INDOPACOM said in a statement said: ”This activity highlights (North Korea’s) continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbours and the international community.”
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