North Korea has test-fired a new weapons system under the leadership of Kim Jong-un that it claims will boost the efficiency of its tactical nuclear weapons, according to state media.
The Korean Central News Agency said early on Sunday that the new-type tactical guided weapon is of great importance in greatly improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes. The test was successful, it said.
South Korea's military said on Sunday that North Korea had fired two projectiles off its east coast towards the sea on Saturday. The missiles launched from the Hamhung region at around 6 pm flew 110 km 68 miles at a maximum altitude of 25 km with maximum speed under Mach 4, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said.
Photos from the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a grinning Kim surrounded by uniformed officials applauding as he watched what it said was the test-firing of the weapon.
North Korea declared that Kim gave a military research team important instructions on further building up defence capabilities and nuclear combat forces. On Friday, North Korea celebrated the birthday of Kim Il-sung's grandfather Kim Il-sung, with a huge public procession, fireworks and synchronised dancing but no military parade as many observers had predicted.
On the important anniversary, analysts and South Korea and US officials thought a nuclear test would be possible.
Three weeks after North Korea staged its largest intercontinental ballistic missile test, the first time that Kim s most powerful weapon had been fired at full range since 2017.
The test was the culmination of a record-breaking blitz of sanctions-busting launches this year and signalled an end to a moratorium on long-range and nuclear tests.
Since Kim met US president Donald Trump for a bout of doomed diplomacy, which collapsed in 2019, long-range and nuclear tests have been paused.
North Korea may carry out its seventh nuclear test in the coming weeks, according to officials and analysts.
Satellite imagery shows signs of new activity at a tunnel at the Punggye-Ri nuclear testing site, which North Korea said was demolished in 2018 ahead of the first Trump-Kim summit.
North Korea has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006 and has touted the success of its last and most powerful one in 2017 a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.
With the launch of a new nuclear test, experts say Pyongyang will try to miniaturise nuclear warheads to mount on its intercontinental ballistic missiles ICBMs South Korean officials have said Pyongyang could still stage a military parade or carry out a weapons test on or around April 25th, the anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army.
The joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington are scheduled to start on Monday.
South Korea and the United States regularly stage military exercises, but Pyongyang has protested against the drills as a rehearsal for war.