North Korea said Thursday it had carried out its first test of a new generation of "strategic" cruise missiles.
The country's official Korean Central News Agency said the Pulhwasal-3-31 missile is still in its development phase, adding that the launch did not pose a threat to neighboring countries.
"Strategic" typically refers to weapons that are nuclear capable.
The test was part of "a process of constant updating of the weapon system and a regular and obligatory activity," the report said.
The announcement came a day after South Korea's military said it detected the North firing several cruise missiles into waters off its western coast.
North's growing capabilities pose a threat
South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik condemned the launches as a serious threat to his country.
North Korea has accelerated weapons testing in recent months and the cruise missile launches were its second known launch event this year.
Pyongyang test-fired its first solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile on January 14.
North Korean cruise missile activities, unlike their ballistic counterparts, aren't directly banned under current UN sanctions
Cruise missiles tend to be jet-propelled and fly at a lower altitude than ballistic missiles, making them harder to detect and intercept.
What's behind rising tensions in the region?
Since 2021, North Korea has conducted numerous tests of what it called long-range cruise missiles fired from both land and sea.
Tensions in the region have risen in recent months as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continues to ramp up weapons development and make provocative threats.
In response, the United States, South Korea and Japan have been expanding their combined military exercises.
The latest launch comes as South Korea is conducting a 10-day special forces infiltration drill off its east coast.
Meanwhile, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol warned that if North Korea carried out a provocation, his country would hit back with a response "multiple times stronger," pointing to his military's "overwhelming response capabilities."
Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un announced the shutdown of key government agencies tasked with managing relations with South Korea.
Pyongyang said the two Koreas were now locked in an "acute confrontation" and that it would be a serious mistake for the North to regard the South as a partner in diplomacy.
rmt/sri (AFP, Reuters)