SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said on Friday it had tested a long-range cruise missile in waters off its east coast while its rival stepped up military drills, contributing to a series of provocative weapons demonstrations.
State media said the aim was to verify the reliability of the missiles and the rapid response capabilities of troops using these weapons.
The launch came as the United States and South Korea held mock military exercises in Washington to bolster their response to the North Korean nuclear threat.
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a cruise missile launch exercise at an undisclosed location in North Korea early in the morning on Thursday, February 23, 2023. Independent journalists have not been granted access to cover the events depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government.The content of this image is provided and should be independently verified You can not. (Korea Central News Agency/Korea News Agency Associated Press)
The official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang said the exercise included four missiles that flew for nearly three hours after being launched from the northeastern coastal region, drawing an oval and figure-eight pattern over the sea and smashing 2,000 missiles into the sea. It said that it showed that it had hit a target a kilometer away.
North Korea will test a long-range cruise missile system for the first time in September 2021, indicating it is in development to arm itself with a nuclear warhead.
It also tested her ICBM on Saturday and a pair of short-range missiles on Monday to demonstrate its dual capability to deliver nuclear strikes on South Korea and the US mainland. North Korea responded to the US showing its strength following North Korea’s ICBM test by flying B-1B bombers to the region to train alongside South Korean and Japanese fighters on Sunday. said it conducted a short-range launch on Monday.
Ahead of the ICBM launch, North Korea promised an “unprecedented” forceful response to a series of military exercises planned by Seoul and Washington. For decades, North Korea has described annual exercises between the United States and South Korea as rehearsals for possible aggression, but allies say their drills are defensive in nature. It says that it is
Long-range cruise missiles are among a growing number of North Korean weapons, designed to be maneuverable in flight to better evade missile defenses.
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Since nuclear talks with the United States broke down in 2019, North Korea has accelerated its development of short-range solid-fuel ballistic missiles aimed at South Korea, including those in low-earth orbit that would theoretically make interception more difficult. It also includes those that fly with North Korea is also attempting to develop solid-fuel ICBMs that are easier to maneuver in vehicles and can be launched faster than North Korea’s existing liquid-fuel ICBMs, reducing the chances of an adversary detecting and countering a launch. .
The KCNA said Thursday`s tests were aimed at verifying the war readiness of its nuclear combat force, which is “bolstering up in every way its deadly nuclear counterattack capability against the hostile forces.”
North Korea is coming off a record year in weapons demonstrations with more than 70 ballistic missiles fired, including ICBMs with potential to reach the U.S. mainland. It also conducted what it described as simulated nuclear attacks against South Korean and U.S. targets in response to the allies` joint military exercises.
Leader Kim Jong Un doubled down on his nuclear push entering 2023, calling for an “exponential increase” in nuclear warheads, mass production of battlefield tactical nuclear weapons targeting “enemy” South Korea and the development of more advanced ICBMs.
The U.S. Department of Defense and South Korea`s Defense Ministry said the U.S. and South Korean militaries conducted a simulation at the Pentagon on Wednesday that was focused on the possibility of the North Korean use of nuclear weapons. The allies also discussed various adoptions to demonstrate their “strong response capabilities and resolve to response appropriately” to any North Korean nuclear use.
The Americans during the meeting highlighted the Biden administration`s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, which states that any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners is “unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime,” the U.S. Department of Defense said. It referred to a statutory document outlining US nuclear policy and strategy for the next five to ten years.
The U.S. and South Korean delegations also visited the U.S. Nuclear Submarine Training Facility at Naval Submarine Station Kings Bay, Georgia, and were briefed on the mission of the Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines. U.S. officials on the ground described such units as an important means of providing allies with enhanced U.S. deterrence, as they are obligated to defend them with all military capabilities, including nuclear weapons.
Faced with the growing North Korean threat, South Korea has sought stronger assurances from the United States that it will use its nuclear capabilities swiftly and decisively to protect its allies from a North Korean nuclear attack.
“The United States will continue to develop (the South Korean ),” Das shared. in a statement of defense. The U.S. and South Korean militaries are planning another joint computer-simulated exercise and field training in March, which South Korean officials said will include the largest coalition live-fire exercise in years.