North Korea says it successfully launched new guided weapon

North Korea says it successfully launched new guided weapon

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Sunday it successfully fired a newly developed tactical guided weapon, the latest in a series of launches that came just after the country passed its biggest state anniversary without an expected military parade, which it usually uses to unveil provocative weapons systems.

The testing activity came amid concerns that North Korea may conduct a larger test, like a nuclear bomb, in order to expand the country's nuclear arsenal and increase pressure on its rivals amid stalled diplomacy.

The Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un observed the launch, which it said would bolster the effective operation of the country's tactical nuclear forces and firepower of its long-range artillery corps.

The dispatch suggested that the weapon tested is likely capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, but KCNA didn't elaborate. It didn't say when and where the launch occurred.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Sunday that it had detected two projectile launches from the North southeastern coastal town of Hamhung early Saturday evening.

The projectiles flew about 68 miles at an apogee of 16 miles and a maximum speed of Mach 4 at the maximum speed of the projectiles. South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials are analyzing additional details of the launches, according to the statement. South Korean officials held an emergency meeting to discuss the launches.

North Korea has started this year with a slew of weapons tests, including its first flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017.

South Korean and U.S. officials said that Pyongyang could launch additional provocations like another ICBM test, a rocket launch to put a spy satellite into orbit or even a nuclear test explosion that would be the seventh of its kind.

South Korea's military said it had detected signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear testing ground that was partially dismantled weeks before it entered now-dormant nuclear talks with the United States in 2018.

Sunday's KCNA dispatch quoted Kim as presenting unspecified tasks to boost North Korea's nuclear fighting and military capability after praising what he called progress in its efforts to strengthen the country's war deterrence power.

On Friday, Kim attended a massive civilian parade in Pyongyang that marked the 110th birth anniversary of his state-founding grandfather, Kim Il Sung. It appeared the country passed its biggest holiday without an expected military parade to showcase its new weapons systems.