North Korea Sharpens Nuclear Prowess With Test of New Weapons System: KCNA

North Korea has test-fired a new weapons system that it claims will boost the nation's nuclear weapons capabilities, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported early Sunday local time.

The test launch was observed under the supervision of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and commanded by the defense ministry, according to KCNA.

"The new-type tactical guided weapon of great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes of the DPRK," the news outlet said. DPRK stands for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The test-firing proved successful," it added.

KCNA did not say when the latest launch took place, but state media typically reports on such activities a day later, Reuters noted.

Kim Jong Un - North Korea nukes
North Korea said Sunday local time that it test-fired a new weapons system that will enhance its nuclear capabilities. Here, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen in Hanoi on March 1, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

The launch comes just weeks after the North fresumed testing of its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) for the first time since 2017. Last month, the U.S. and South Korea alleged that the nation had recently conducted two ICBM launches in an effort to gauge whether the missiles could launch far enough to strike anywhere in the U.S.

The Pentagon quickly condemned the launches, which were conducted on February 16 and March 4, calling them a "serious escalation by the DPRK."

​​"The United States strongly condemns these launches, which are a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, needlessly raise tensions and risk destabilizing the security situation in the region," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Around the same time, satellite imagery appeared to show new construction at the country's Punggye-ri nuclear facility for the first time since Kim Jong Un promised to close the site in 2018. U.S. and South Korean officials warned that the country may soon resume nuclear weapons testing, but said the images showed "very early signs of activity," according to BBC.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command responded to those reports by ordering intensified surveillance for activity in the Yellow Sea, as well as "enhanced readiness" for U.S. ballistic missile defense forces in the region, Newsweek previously noted.

South Korea also responded to the North's ICBM tests by saying it would be ready to launch preemptive strikes if it is determined that North Korea is planning its own attacks. Those remarks prompted Kim Jon Un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, to lash out against South Korea, warning that the nation could face a "serious threat" if it continues to make "reckless" remarks.

On Sunday, KCNA reported that Kim Jong Un ordered the nation to continue strengthening its weapons efficiency and nuclear options following its latest launch.

"Clarifying the future plan of the Party Central Committee for increasing the defense capabilities, he gave important instructions on further strengthening the defense capacity and nuclear combat forces of the country," the state-run outlet wrote.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Newsweek Sunday that the U.S. is aware of the North's latest weapons system.

"We analyze all activities in close coordination with our allies and partners. We have been very clear on our commitment to the defense of the ROK, Japan, and the U.S. homeland, and our commitment to uphold regional peace and stability," the spokesperson added.

Update 4/17/22, 9:05 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with comment from the Pentagon.