SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said Thursday it conducted its first flight test of a new cruise missile, as it expands its military capabilities in the face of deepening tensions with the United States and neighbors.
The report in state media came a day after South Korea's military said it detected the North firing several cruise missiles into waters off its western coast. It didn't immediately provide more details about the numbers of missiles fired or their flight characteristics.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the Pulhwasal-3-31 missile is still in its development phase and that the launch did not pose a threat to neighbors. It described the missile as “strategic,” implying an intent to arm them with nuclear weapons.
Lee Sung Joon, spokesperson of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the missiles flew a shorter distance than previous North Korean cruise missile launches, which he said suggested that the North was trying to improve the performance of existing systems.
The cruise missile launches were North Korea's second known launch event of the year, following a Jan. 14 test-firing of the country's first solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile, which reflected its efforts to advance its lineup of weapons targeting U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam.
Yang Uk, an analyst at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said North Korea is trying to highlight its…