Pyongyang claimed to take another step forward with its nuclear weapons program on Wednesday. North Korean state media reported Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test of two long-range cruise missiles. Pyongyang says the missiles could carry nuclear warheads.
Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang’s state agency reported the test Thursday. The outlet said the launch enhanced “the combat efficiency and might” of cruise missiles deployed to the Korean People’s Army “for the operation of tactical nukes.” Kim added his country “should continue to expand the operational sphere of the nuclear strategic armed forces to resolutely deter any crucial military crisis and war crisis at any time and completely take the initiative in it.”
Earlier in the week, KCNA reported several other advancements to North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang has now test-fired 14 missiles in seven tests during the past two weeks. Pyongyang claims it now has the ability to launch nuclear-capable missiles from underwater silos and it developed a new intermediate-range missile.
The flurry of North Korean advancements to its nuclear program comes as the US, South Korea and Japan have also ramped up their military activity in the region. The US recently conducted live-fire war games on the Korean Peninsula for the first time in several years.
Military activity in the region spiked in recent weeks. President Joe Biden has abandoned his predecessor’s policy of engagement with Kim. The Biden White House has demanded Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons. In response, last month, Kim changed North Korean nuclear policy, recognizing the essential role his nuclear deterrent plays in the longevity of his government.