Officials from South Korea claim that North Korea has tested cruise missiles

SEOUL, South Korea (AP). -- North Korea tested two cruise missiles on Tuesday in its fifth round weapons launches this month. This is despite pandemic-related difficulties, and a prolonged freeze of nuclear negotiations with the United States.

Officials from South Korea claim that North Korea has tested cruise missiles

A department official spoke under condition of anonymity and said that U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials were analysing the launches. However, they didn't give any further details. A second military official requested anonymity for similar reasons and stated that the tests were carried out from an inland location, but did not specify where.

North Korea has increased its testing activities in recent weeks to try and pressure the Biden administration about the stalled diplomacy following the pandemic that unleashed more shock on an economy already crippled by U.S.-led sanctions for its nuclear weapons program, decades of mismanagement by its government, and the stalled diplomatic process.

Last Thursday, North Korea threatened to restart the testing of long-range missiles and nuclear explosives against the American homeland. Kim Jong Un had suspended these tests in 2018, while he initiated diplomacy between the two countries.

Experts believe that North Korea could escalate its weapons demonstrations following the Winter Olympics in China on February 4. This is China's economic and strategic ally.

According to them, Pyongyang's leadership may feel it can use a dramatic provocation in order to move the needle. The Biden administration has offered open-ended negotiations but not shown any willingness to relax sanctions unless Kim makes real efforts to abandon the nuclear weapons & missiles that he considers his best guarantee of survival.

According to Kim Dong-yub (a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies), Tuesday's launches could have been follow-up tests of a weapon North Korea describes as a long-range cruise ballistic missile. It was first tested in September.

According to state media reports, the missiles were launched from launcher trucks. They could strike targets up to 1,500 km (932 miles) away. They were described as a "strategic weapons of great significance" by the state media, which implies that they could be used to carry nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Un has been increasing the testing of shorter-range weapons since 2019, despite halting nuclear device and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Experts believe that the North's growing missile arsenal is a sign of its desire to put more pressure on its competitors to accept it as nuclear power, in the hopes of gaining relief from economic sanctions and converting the diplomacy between Washington and Moscow into mutual arms-reduction talks.

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