Could North Korea's Newly Tested Missile Carry a Nuclear Warhead?

North Korea's newly tested long-range cruise missiles are considered by analysts to be the country's first nuclear-capable weapons.

Could North Korea's Newly Tested Missile Carry a Nuclear Warhead?
Could North Korea's Newly Tested Missile Carry a Nuclear Warhead?

The missiles - which Pyongyang calls "strategic weapons of great significance" - flew 1,500km for 7,580 seconds in an oval and figure-eight orbit.

The latest test shows that Pyongyang's weapons program is making steady progress despite the deadlock in negotiations with the United States. Negotiations have been stalled since 2019.

"This will be North Korea's first cruise missile to be explicitly assigned a strategic role," said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. know. "This is the way North Korea usually refers to a nuclear-capable weapon system."

It is unclear if North Korea has mastered the technology to make warheads small enough to be carried on cruise missiles, but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing a smaller bomb was his top goal. this country.

It was North Korea's first missile launch after it tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after US President Joe Biden took office in late January.

The South Korean military did not say whether Seoul discovered the test. On Monday, South Korea said it was conducting a detailed analysis with the cooperation of the United States.

Seoul typically discloses information about North Korea's ballistic missile tests almost immediately, but doesn't do the same with cruise missiles.

North Korea's cruise missiles are generally of less concern than ballistic missiles because they are not explicitly banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

"It's not that cruise missiles are less threatening than ballistic missiles," said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. It's because the people who make (Security Council) resolutions lack imagination like Kim Jong Un and his Academy of Defense Sciences."

Lewis said the medium-range land-attack cruise missile is a notable capability for North Korea. "This is a system designed to fly under or around missile defense radars."

The missile tests took place on Saturday and Sunday without the presence of leader Kim Jong Un. The event came shortly after North Korea held a small-scale military parade and appeared intent on demonstrating its military might with a low-level provocation without violating UN sanctions. United Nations.

Experts say North Korea's newly revealed weapon resembles the US' Tomahawk long-range missile and South Korea's Hyunmoo-3C.

Ballistic missiles have a much longer range and travel faster than cruise missiles of the same size. However, cruise missiles are still a threat because they fly in a straight line and at low altitudes, making them harder to detect. According to experts, cruise missiles can also carry nuclear warheads.

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