The missiles are "a strategic weapon of great significance" and flew 1,500 km before hitting their targets and falling into the country's territorial waters, state media said.

These pictures released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on September 13, 2021 show a test-fired new type long-range cruise missile.
These pictures released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on September 13, 2021 show a test-fired new type long-range cruise missile. (Reuters)

North Korea has test-fired what it called a new type of "long-range cruise missile" over the weekend, the country's state Korean Central News Agency reported amid a long standoff with the United States over denuclearisation.

The test launches, which took place on both Saturday and Sunday, were observed by high-level officials, KCNA said early on Monday, adding that the tests had been carried out "successfully".

The missiles travelled for 7,580 seconds along "oval and pattern-8 flight orbits" above North Korea and its territorial waters, and hit targets 1,500 kilometres (about 930 miles) away, KCNA said.

The report called the missile a "strategic weapon of great significance", adding that "in all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent".

It also said the development of the missile system held "strategic significance", giving North Korea "another effective deterrence means" for protecting the state and aiding in "strongly containing the military manoeuvres of the hostile forces".

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North seeking to develop smaller bombs

It is unclear whether North Korea has mastered the technology needed to build warheads small enough to be carried on a cruise missile, but leader Kim Jong Un said earlier this year that developing smaller bombs is a top goal.

South Korea's military did not disclose whether it had detected the tests, but said on Monday it was conducting a detailed analysis in cooperation with the United States.

The Pentagon said the missile tests posed "threats" to the country's neighbors and beyond.

"This activity highlights DPRK's continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbors and the international community," the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement, using the North's official name.

The test launches came just a few days after a scaled-back parade in Pyongyang to mark the 73rd anniversary of the country's founding.

The North normally showcases missiles – whether real or models – at such parades, but this time, the biggest weapons on display were artillery pieces dragged by tractors.

The weekend missile test launches are the first by North Korea since March.

Pyongyang has not carried out a nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile launch since 2017.

READ MORE: Machines not missiles displayed at North Korea anniversary parade

Talks to break standoff

The unveiling of the test came just a day before chief nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo to explore ways to break the standoff with North Korea.

Pyongyang is under a range of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which it continues to pursue.

Nuclear talks with the United States have been stalled since the collapse of a 2019 summit in Hanoi between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-president Donald Trump over sanctions – and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.

Current US President Joe Biden's North Korea envoy Sung Kim has repeatedly expressed his willingness to meet his Pyongyang counterparts "anywhere, at any time".

But the impoverished North has never shown any indication it would be willing to surrender its nuclear arsenal, and has rebuffed South Korean efforts to revive dialogue.

READ MORE: Why is North Korea’s nuclear programme such a threat?

Last month, the UN atomic agency (IAEA) said Pyongyang appeared to have started its plutonium-producing reprocessing reactor at Yongbyon, calling it a "deeply troubling" development, and Kim's sister and key adviser Kim Yo Jong demanded the withdrawal of US troops from the peninsula.

Last week, South Korea tested a homegrown submarine-launched ballistic missile – a technology the North has long sought to develop.

The North showed off four such devices at a military parade overseen by Kim in January, with KCNA calling them "the world's most powerful weapon".

But while North Korea has released pictures of underwater launches, most recently in 2019, analysts believe that was from a fixed platform or submersible barge, rather than a submarine.

READ MORE: S.Korea in final stages of developing ballistic missile to deter N.Korea

Source: TRTWorld and agencies