SEOUL (South Korea) — North Korea said it fired what it called newly developed long-range cruise missiles. This was its first test firing in months and a clear indication of how it is expanding its military capabilities despite a deadlock in nuclear negotiations with the United States.

The Korean Central News Agency reported Monday that the cruise missiles, in development for two years now, hit targets at a distance of miles during flight tests conducted on Saturday and Sunday. The North described its new missiles to be a “strategic weapons of great significance”, which meets Kim Jong Un’s call for greater military might.

The South Korean military did not immediately confirm the North Korean tests.

Kim at a Congress of the ruling Workers Party in January doubled his promise to strengthen his nuclear deterrent against U.S. pressures and sanctions. He also issued a long list of sophisticated assets including intercontinental ballistic missiles with longer ranges, nuclear-powered submarines and spy satellites as well as tactical nuclear weapons.

Talks between the United States of America and North Korea stalled after the collapse of a summit between Donald Trump and Kim in 2019,, when the Americans rejected North’s request for major sanctions relief in return for partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim’s government has rejected the Biden administration’s attempts to have dialogue and demanded that Washington end its “hostile” policies first.

North Korea reopened a yearlong pause for ballistic testing in March with two short-range missiles fired into the sea. This continued a tradition of testing new administrations using weapons demonstrations to measure Washington’s response, and to negotiate concessions.

But, there weren’t any test launches for several months afterwards as Kim concentrated national efforts on fighting the coronaviruses and salvaging an economy that was further damaged by the pandemic border closings.

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