North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a munitions factory, state-run media said Friday, amid a flurry of missile launches in the secretive regime's busiest month of weapons tests ever. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
SEOUL, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- North Korea said that it successfully tested tactical guided missiles and long-range cruise missiles in a pair of launches this week, while leader Kim Jong Un called for a boost to the country's weapons program during a visit to a munitions factory, state-run media reported Friday.
On Thursday, Pyongyang launched a pair of surface-to-surface tactical guided missiles that "precisely hit the target island" and confirmed the "explosive power of the conventional warhead," according to a report by Korean Central News Agency.
South Korea's military said that the missiles were fired from an east coast location and traveled roughly 118 miles at an altitude of 12 miles.
Analysts later identified the missiles as North Korea's KN-23, a version of the Russian Iskander, from images released by state media.
North Korea also confirmed reports from the South Korean military that it fired a pair of long-range cruise missiles on Tuesday.
The missiles traveled a distance of approximately 1,120 miles over a period of two hours and 32 minutes and hit a target island in the sea between Korea and Japan, KCNA said.
"The practical combat performance of the long-range cruise missile system would hold a reliable share in boosting the war deterrence of the country," the report added.
The secretive regime has conducted six weapons tests since the beginning of the year, marking its busiest month under Kim Jong Un and drawing repeated condemnations from the international community.
Kim visited a munitions factory "producing a major weapon system," KCNA said in a separate report on Friday, where he "learned in detail about the recent modernization of technology and production processes."
No details about the location of the factory or the weapons it manufactures were given.
Kim, who was joined on the trip by his influential sister Kim Yo Jong and senior party officials, touted the plant's "collective innovation and leaping progress in producing major weapons," according to KCNA.
Factory workers and officials lauded Kim for "smash[ing] with his bold pluck the challenges of the U.S. imperialists and their vassal forces that try to violate in every direction our Republic's right to self-defense," the report said.
In an address last week, Kim called for North Korea to bolster its military capacity to face "the hostile policy and military threat by the U.S.," and suggested that Pyongyang may lift a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests that has been in place for more than four years.
Pyongyang has defended its missile tests as a legitimate exercise of its right to self-defense, while criticizing Seoul and Washington for conducting joint military exercises and bringing their own high-tech weapons systems to the Peninsula.
The regime has bristled under continued international sanctions and is resisting any efforts to restart stalled negotiations with the United States over its nuclear program.
Earlier this month, Washington leveled sanctions on six North Korean individuals, along with a Russian individual and company, over ties to Pyongyang's weapons program. The United States last week led a call for the U.N. Security Council to blacklist five of the North Koreans, but the proposal was blocked by Russia and China.
The Pentagon condemned North Korea's latest launches Thursday as "destabilizing behavior."
"We continue to call on the North Korean regime to stop these provocations, which in many cases, violate existing U.N. Security Council resolutions," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing.
The European Union also issued a statement Thursday, calling on North Korea to "cease destabilizing actions and respond constructively to the readiness for dialogue expressed by the United States and [South Korea]."