North Korea fires submarine missiles ahead of largest US and South Korean military exercises in years | CNN


Seoul, South Korea

North Korea fired two missiles from a submarine in the waters off North Korea’s east coast this weekend, according to state media. Monday.

Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA said the “strategic cruise missiles” were launched Sunday morning from a submarine “8.24 Yongung” in the Sea of ​​Japan, also known in Korea as the Baltic Sea. The same ship was used to test North Korea’s first submarine-launched ballistic missile in 2016, CNN previously reported.

The launches on Sunday came some 24 hours before Washington and Seoul began their joint spring exercise on Monday, the largest war games the two allies have held in five years.

The 11-day Freedom Shield exercise “will integrate elements of ‘live exercises’ with constructive simulations,” US Forces Korea (USFK) said in an earlier statement.

North Korea reiterated that it will “take the toughest countermeasures against the most vicious plots by the US and its minions,” KCNA reported Monday.

Pyongyang has issued multiple warnings against the planned exercise, noting that it is “monitoring every movement of the enemy and taking corresponding and very strong and overwhelming countermeasures against any movement hostile to us,” Kim Yo Jong’s sister North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said last month.

North Korean missile launches and fiery rhetoric increase as Washington and Seoul hold joint military exercises.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said earlier Sunday that North Korea fired at least one unidentified missile from a submarine near the port city of Sinpo in South Hamgyong province.

KCNA claimed the missiles flew for more than an hour, traveling about 1,500 kilometers (932 mi) per hour and firing figure-eight patterns before hitting “exactly” a target.

The Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea “expressed satisfaction” after the exercise, KCNA reported.

US and South Korean intelligence agencies are analyzing the incident, JCS said.

The launch took place three days after North Korea fired at least six short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea on Thursday.

State media reported last week that Kim Jong Un said the artillery units should be prepared for two missions, “first, to deter war and second, to take the initiative in war, steadily intensifying various simulated exercises for real war.” .”

Pyongyang is holding its winter training and intelligence agencies in the US and South Korea are monitoring it, South Korea’s defense ministry spokesman said Thursday.

US and South Korean air forces have also held their own regular air exercises.

Last week, a US B-52 bomber was escorted by South Korean fighter jets as it flew into the South Air Defense Identification Zone, USFK said Monday.

The exercises between the US and South Korea are expected to be the largest the two allies have held in years since they scaled back such military demonstrations in 2017 when then US President Donald Trump sought to provide an opening for North Korea to negotiate an end to its long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs.

That gap has long since closed, with North Korea conducting a record number of missile tests last year and pledging to develop its nuclear program to weaponize the missiles.

Missile tests in the North have been delayed in 2023, but tensions on the Korean peninsula remain high.

Analysts see little reason to think things will cool down.

“This is likely just the beginning of a series of provocative tests by North Korea,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University, said of the missiles fired on Thursday.

“Pyongyang stands poised to respond aggressively to major defense exercises between the US and South Korea, as well as to President Yoon’s upcoming summits with (Japanese) Prime Minister (Fumio) Kishida and (US) President (Joe) Biden.”

“The Kim regime could order missiles to be fired over longer ranges, attempt to launch a spy satellite, demonstrate a solid-fuel engine and perhaps even conduct a nuclear test,” Easley said.

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