On Thursday, North Korea made an announcement that has greatly heightened tensions in the region. They declared that they had successfully carried out the inaugural flight test of their brand-new cruise missile, known as the Pulhwasal-3-31. As reported by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the missile soared through the sky for a duration of more than an hour, traversing an impressive distance of 1,500 kilometers in total. This remarkable feat showcased not only its exceptional effectiveness but also its remarkable precision.
According to KCNA, the Pulhwasal-3-31 is currently undergoing development and the regime asserts that it does not present any danger to nearby nations. Nevertheless, this missile is being promoted as a “strategic” armament capable of transporting nuclear warheads, signifying a worrisome advancement in North Korea’s quest for sophisticated weaponry.
This missile test comes just a short time after South Korea saw similar activity in which the North launched cruise missiles into the sea off its west coast. The Pulhwasal-3-31 is another weapon in North Korea’s expanding arsenal, which also includes solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) that the country says are capable of striking Guam and Japan.
Because cruise missiles are made to fly at low altitudes and avoid radar detection, they are especially dangerous for countries that border them. According to North Korea, a large chunk of Japan can be reached by its cruise missiles, which have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers.
This latest test comes amid rising tensions in the region, fueled by North Korea’s continuous pursuit of weapons development and belligerent statements against the United States and its allies. The regime has denounced joint military exercises conducted by the U.S., South Korea, and Japan, considering them rehearsals for invasion and provocations justifying its nuclear build-up.
Considering that both South Korea and the United States are having elections this year, analysts worry that North Korea may intensify its pressure methods. These elections could have an effect on Pyongyang’s nuclear diplomacy, which is now at a standstill. North Korea’s weapons race is apparently having a negative impact on its economy, which is already in precarious shape as a result of poor management and international sanctions, notwithstanding its assertive posture.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently chastised officials for not providing enough basic necessities to those living in rural areas during a meeting of the ruling party. Kim’s order to destroy a symbolic arch in Pyongyang that stood for peace with South Korea is clear evidence of his dissatisfaction with the lack of advancement in inter-Korean relations. Furthermore, Kim’s declaration this week, in which he gave up on the objective of reconciling with South Korea amicably, points to a change in tactics intended to diminish South Korea’s influence in the nuclear dispute and advance direct talks with Washington. Experts speculate that establishing North Korea’s nuclear status internationally may be the country’s ultimate goal.