North Korea has just successfully tested a new variant of its long-range cruise missile, according to an initial report from Time Magazine. This is part of a project to create a new system that is capable of delivering nuclear strikes not only to South Korea, but also to Japan.
Unlike ballistic missiles, North Korea’s new cruise missiles can potentially evade detection long enough to prevent an adequate response from neighboring countries. During the tests, the military leadership of the DPRK tested various parts of the engines, control and guidance systems, and warheads.
While ballistic missiles can travel much farther than North Korea to Japan, they have a drawback. They are much easier to spot, and therefore prepare for a local evacuation, and perhaps even respond to a strike. For example, launch a nuclear counterattack before the missiles hit their targets.
In contrast, cruise missiles are more maneuverable and stick closer to the surface, making them harder for enemy armed forces to detect. Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program, said the cruise missile’s ability to bypass defenses is consistent with Kim Jong-un’s goal of deterring US-led attacks. “North Korea’s military plan is to launch a preemptive strike against US forces in South Korea and Japan if an invasion appears imminent,” Lewis explains in the Time report. “Cruise missiles have advantages in terms of surprise, penetration and accuracy.”
The last time Pyongyang conducted such tests was in March. Then two new tactical missiles were launched in the Sea of Japan. They flew about 600 km. According to North Korean media reports, these missiles are capable of carrying a warhead weighing up to 2.5 tons.