SEOUL (Reuters) – Nuclear-armed North Korea tested two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday, state news agency KCNA said on Monday, as military exercises between the United States and South Korea began.
The word “strategic” is generally used to describe weapons that have a nuclear capability.
The KCNA said the launch confirmed the system’s reliability and tested the underwater offensive operations of the submarine units that are part of North Korea’s nuclear deterrence.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was on high alert and the Korean intelligence agency was working with its US counterpart to analyze details of the launch.
On Monday, South Korean and US forces were scheduled to begin 11 days of joint exercises, dubbed Freedom Shield 23, that will take place on a scale not seen since 2017.
The two armies said the exercises will strengthen the allies’ joint defense posture and will include field exercises, including amphibious landings.
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North Korea has long been wary of the exercises, which it views as a rehearsal for invasion. It has conducted a record number of missile tests and exercises over the past year in what it says is an effort to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and fully exploit more weapons.
The submarine launches are meant to show North Korea’s determination to control the situation, with the agency saying that “US imperialists and South Korean puppet forces are forever edging in their anti-military maneuvers”. -DPRK”.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea means North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Korean Central News Agency said that the strategic cruise missiles were launched from the “Yongong 8.24” submarine on the waters off the east coast of Korea in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The KCNA report said the missiles traveled 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) before hitting a target at sea.
North Korea has a large submarine fleet, but the Yeongong-8.24 (August 24 Hero) is the only known experimental ballistic missile submarine. Analysts say it plays an important role in the development of missiles, submarine technology and operational procedures, as well as the practical training of new submarines.
North Korea said it is building a ballistic missile submarine.
While overseeing a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) firing exercise Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the military to intensify the exercises to deter and respond to a “real war” if necessary.
On Sunday, state media reported that Kim led a meeting of the ruling party to discuss and decide on “important and practical steps” to bolster the country’s war deterrence capacity amid escalating US and South Korean measures. The report did not provide details of the procedures.
Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Josh Smith; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Howard Goller
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