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North Korea has tested a “super-large warhead” designed for a strategic cruise missile, state media said on Saturday, the most recent test since UN sanctions monitoring against the nuclear-armed nation was upended last month by Russia.

The announcement comes after Russia in March used its United Nations Security Council veto to effectively end UN monitoring of violations of the raft of sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government for its nuclear and weapons programme.

Analysts have warned that North Korea could be testing cruise missiles ahead of sending them to Russia for use in Ukraine, with Washington and Seoul claiming Kim has shipped weapons to Moscow, despite UN sanctions banning any such moves. “The DPRK Missile Administration has conducted a power test of a super-large warhead designed for ‘Hwasal-1 Ra-3’ strategic cruise missile”, KCNA news agency said on Saturday, referring to North Korea by an abbreviation for its official name.

North Korea also carried out a test launch of a “‘Pyoljji-1-2’ new-type anti-aircraft missile in the West Sea of Korea”, KCNA said, adding that both tests were carried out on Friday afternoon. Seoul’s military said it detected “several cruise missiles and surface-to-air missiles” fired toward the same body of water, also known as the Yellow Sea, at around 3:30pm on Friday.

It added that it was “closely watching” the North’s military activities, and if Pyongyang “commits a provocation, we will punish it overwhelmingly and resolutely”. This year, Pyongyang has declared South Korea its “principal enemy”, jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial infringement.

Unlike their ballistic counterparts, the testing of cruise missiles is not banned under current UN sanctions on North Korea.

Cruise missiles tend to be jet-propelled and fly at a lower altitude than more sophisticated ballistic missiles, making them harder to detect and intercept.



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