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N. Korea launches missiles as US, South kick off major drills

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SEOUL: North Korea said on Monday it had test-fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine, as South Korea and the United States kicked off their largest joint military exercises in five years.

Nuclear-armed Pyongyang said the test verified its “nuclear war deterrence means in different spaces” as it slammed the drills — known as Freedom Shield — which will run for 10 days from Monday as part of the allies’ drive to counter North Korea’s growing threats.

“The two strategic cruise missiles precisely hit the preset target on the East Sea of Korea,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

North Korea is not technically banned from firing cruise missiles under current UN sanctions — although tests relating to its nuclear arsenal are not allowed.

The KCNA report said the test was linked to the United States and South Korea “getting evermore undisguised in their anti-DPRK military manoeuvres”, referring to the North by its official name.

The South Korean military said it had detected the launch of at least one unidentified missile from a North Korean submarine Sunday morning. Photos and video released by North Korean state media showed the submarine, the “8.24 Yongung”, and a missile flying into the sky from the water, trailing white smoke and flames.

Analysts said “huge doubts” remain about how advanced the North’s submarine programme is. Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the state media images suggested the missile was fired from above the water. “Then there is no point in shooting from a submarine because there is no stealth,” Park said.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2023


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