(Reuters) -- North Korea has test-fired a new anti-ship cruise missile, images released by state media on Saturday showed, demonstrating the increased capability of the secretive state's outdated navy.
The images were released in the lead-up to U.S.-South Korean military exercises this spring. North Korea routinely seeks to raise tensions ahead of the annual drills, although this year Pyongyang has also offered to suspend nuclear testing if Washington calls off the exercises.
The images, which were shown on the front page of the ruling Workers' Party Rodong Sinmun newspaper, showed leader Kim Jong Un observing the missile being fired from a small naval vessel.
State media described it as a "new type of cutting-edge anti-ship rocket" developed by North Korean scientists that will "bring a great change in the navy's defense of territorial waters".
The missile appeared identical in design to a Russian anti-ship missile, the KH-35, which is capable of flying at high speeds meters above the sea.
"It looks exactly like a KH-35," said Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Monterey Institute of International Studies.
North Korea test-fires new anti-ship cruise missile
In this May 28, 2015 photo, Yun Chang Hyok, Vice Chief of the Research Institute of North Koreaâs National Aerospace Development Administration, talks during an interview in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that say the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies. (AP Photo/APTN)
In this May 28, 2015 photo, Paek Chang Ho, Vice Director of the Scientific Research and Development Department of North Koreaâs National Aerospace Development Administration, talks during an interview in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean space agency officials say the country is developing a more advanced Earth observation satellite and are defending their right to conduct rocket launches whenever they see fit, despite protests by the United States and others that say the launches are aimed primarily at honing military-use technologies. (AP Photo/APTN)
FILE - In thus Dec. 16, 2014 file photo, North Koreans gather at the Mansu Hill where the statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung, and Kim Jong Il tower over them, in Pyongyang, North Korea. The U.S. is imposing sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for the cyberattack against Sony Pictures Entertainment. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Friday authorizing the sanctions. Although the U.S. has already sanctioned North Korea over its nuclear program, these are the first sanctions punishing Pyongyang for alleged cyberattacks. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this photo released by South Korea's Navy and distributed by Yonhap news agency, a sea-to-air missile "Sea Sparrow" is launched from South Korean destroyer Uljimundeok during a fire drill to mark the fourth anniversary of North Koreaâs artillery attack in the West Sea, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. North Korea threatened Thursday to bolster its war capability and conduct a fourth nuclear test to cope with what it calls U.S. hostility that led to the approval of a landmark U.N. resolution on its human rights violations. (AP Photo/South Korean Navy via Yonhap) KOREA OUT
PAJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 10: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) In this handout provided by the Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily, North Korean defectors, now living in South Korea, prepare to release balloons carrying propaganda leaflets denouncing North
Korea's nuclear test, near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on October 10, 2014 in Paju, South Korea. Seoul's military said they exchanged machine gun fire with North Korea on Friday, after the North opened fire toward balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets floated across the border. (Photo by Jang Seong-Yoon-Donga Daily via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Dec. 26, 2014 file photo, a North Korea's mock Scud-B missile, center, stands among South Korean missiles displayed at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea said Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015 that rival North Korea has a 6,000-member cyber army dedicated to disrupting the South's military and government. The figure is a dramatic increase from its earlier estimate that the North had a cyberwarfare staff of 3,000. Seoul's Defense Ministry said in a report that North Korea may also have gained the ability to strike the U.S. mainland because of its recent progress in missile technology, which was demonstrated in five long-range missile tests in 2009 and 2012, and is advancing in efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads to mount on such missiles. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)
In this Wednesday, April 9, 2014 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up parliament membership certificate during the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's newly-selected parliament met for the first time on Wednesday in Pyongyang. It was the first time that North Korea has reassembled its parliament under new leader Kim. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
The city skyline is shrouded by a layer of mist after a torrential rain in Pyongyang, Monday, July 22, 2013. The country is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
In this Sunday, May 13, 2012 photo, a North Korean family rests on a grassy spot near the skyline of a newly developed area of Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Clouds hang over the skyline of central Pyongyang, North Korea Monday April 18, 2011. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, a view of the skyline of downtown Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009. (AP Photo/Jean H. Lee)
Juche Tower stands above the skyline across from Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 2013/09/19: Pyongyang's newly built luxury housing for those citizens who are more fortunate in North Korea.
60 years after the Korean War, it is clear that not much has changed in North Korea. The country still remains under heavy censorship, with only a small portion of the population living the life of what we call 'middle class'. The people of North Korea are forced into believing that working for the greater good of the state is the formal way of presenting their national determination. The city of Pyongyang is outdated, with only a handful of cars driven by those who are a bit more fortunate. Propaganda rates are high, with many billboards displaying missiles and world domination regimes. North Korea remains a strictly isolated country where people do not have the privileges that we take for granted. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Fireworks explode above the Pyongyaang skyline during a display to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice agreement, in Pyongyang on July 27, 2013. North Korea mounted its largest ever military parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, displaying its long-range missiles at a ceremony presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
The Yanggakdo Football Stadium stands before the Pyongyang city skyline on April 13, 2012. North Korea launched a long-range rocket, South Korea's defence ministry and US officials said, with Japan saying that the launch had appeared to have failed. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/04/01: The construction skeleton of what would be the world tallest hotel. Unfortunately, the 105 story Ryuyong Hotel and its five rotating restaurants will likely never open. When personel from Hyatt hotels inspected the site they discovered that the elevator shaft wasn't even straight. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - 1994/02/01: A hotel on the river in Pyongyang. (Photo by Gerhard Joren/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A smartly dressed business woman walks under North Korean flags and the imposing Juche Tower.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, Pyongyang, Moranbong Theatre, venue of National Symphony Orchestra - Fountain statues detail;
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 16, 2014: Figure 1-A. DigitalGlobe imagery of the bypass road constructed at the West Portal of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site. Date: September 16, 2014 -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JUNE 22, 2014: This is Figure 3-2 -- DigitalGlobe imagery of an after photo of the dam failure at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center showing sand being excavated for the new dam. Image taken on June 22, 2014 -- published on 38 North (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
This video grab taken from North Korean TV on March 20, 2013 shows a Self-Propelled Suface to Air Missile during North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's overseeing of a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors. Kim Jong-Un oversaw a live fire military drill using drones and cruise missile interceptors, state media said, amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula. ----EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT ' AFP PHOTO / NORTH KOREAN TV' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS -
AFP PHOTO/HO/NORTH KOREAN TV (Photo credit should read NORTH KOREAN TV/AFP/Getty Images)
In this undated photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, a South Korean sea-to-land cruise missile is fired from a submarine during a drill at an undisclosed location in South Korea. South Korea also Wednesday it has deployed cruise missiles with "world-class accuracy and destructive power" that are capable of hitting any target in North Korea at any time, and is speeding up the planned deployment of ballistic missiles. North Korea's neighbors bolstered their military preparations and mobilized scientists Wednesday to determine whether Pyongyang's third nuclear test, conducted in defiance of U.N. warnings, was as successful as the North claimed. (AP Photo/South Korea Defense Ministry)
In this undated photo released by the South Korean Defense Ministry on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, a South Korean ship-to-land cruise missile is fired from a destroyer during a drill at an undisclosed location in South Korea. South Korea said Wednesday it has deployed cruise missiles with "world-class accuracy and destructive power" that are capable of hitting any target in North Korea at any time, and is speeding up the planned deployment of ballistic missiles. North Korea's neighbors bolstered their military preparations and mobilized scientists Wednesday to determine whether Pyongyang's third nuclear test, conducted in defiance of U.N. warnings, was as successful as the North claimed. (AP Photo/South Korea Defense Ministry)
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Last June, Lewis was the first to spot what appeared to be an unconfirmed glimpse of the missile in a North Korean propaganda video."It is a capable anti-ship cruise missile that puts some teeth in recent statements about developing anti-ship capabilities," said Lewis, referring to North Korean naval exercises last month that state media said were designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers.
North Korea has increased the number of air and naval military drills in recent weeks, ahead of the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang regularly protests over the drills, which it says are a rehearsal for war.
Officials from isolated North Korea, under increased pressure from international sanctions related to its nuclear and missile programs, have made frequent trips to Russia over the past year, where leader Kim Jong Un is scheduled to make his first official state visit this May.
"The design raises a question about whether, when, and under what circumstances, Moscow might have assisted North Korea in the development of the system," Lewis said.