This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says is a cruise missile the country test-fired from a submarine off the east coast of North Korea early Sunday, March 12, 2023. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified.
Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
North Korea test-fired two strategic cruise missiles on Sunday, according to its state media, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The missile test came three days after Pyongyang’s launch of six short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and a day before the South Korea-U.S. regular springtime combined military exercises begin.
“The submarine ‘8.24 Yongung’ launched two strategic cruise missiles in the water off Kyongpho Bay on the East Sea of Korea,” KCNA reported. “The two strategic cruise missiles precisely hit the preset target on the East Sea of Korea after traveling the 1,500km-long eight-shaped flight orbits for 7,563s to 7,575s.”
Sunday’s test was carried out at the Sinpo area, a known site for submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) tests, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The JCS released the details of the North’s cruise missile launch a day after. The South Korean military said the missiles were detected in its surveillance system at the time when they were fired, but it did not release information immediately in order to protect its surveillance and information-gathering capabilities.
The previous Moon Jae-in administration had made announcements as soon as the military detected the North’s missile launches. However, the current Yoon Suk-yeol administration has signaled that it would not always unveil its analysis of the North’s missile launches, as the details could be exploited by the North Korean military.
Hours after KCNA announced the details of the performance of the test-fired strategic cruise missiles, the JCS countered that the data detected by its surveillance system differed from the North’s announcement, implying that Pyongyang might have exaggerated the performance and type of the missiles.
However, the JCS clarified that the missiles were fired from a submarine and said it is analyzing more details of the performance and more details of the test-firing with the U.S. intelligence authorities. If the North’s strategic cruise missile test is confirmed, it would be the North’s first submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) launch.
“The drill clearly expressed the invariable stand of the Korean People’s Army on persistently controlling the present situation in which the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces are getting evermore undisguised in their anti-DPRK military maneuvers by dint of overwhelming powerful forces and verified the current operation posture of the nuclear war deterrence means in different spaces,” KCNA said. (DPRK is an acronym of North Korea’s official name: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)
On Sunday, North Korean state media reported the fifth enlarged meeting of the 8th Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) was held. According to the report, Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, attended and guided the meeting.
“The meeting discussed and adopted the important practical steps for making more effective, powerful, and offensive use of the war deterrent of the country in coping with the present situation in which the war provocations of the U.S. and South Korea are reaching the red-line,” KCNA said. The “important practical steps” were not outlined, but one of them appears to be the cruise missile test conducted on Sunday.
Also, as the North has continuously demanded that South Korea and the United States immediately halt their combined military exercises, the red line seems to imply the Freedom Shield exercise, scheduled from March 13 to March 23.
Despite the North’s consistent threats and warnings, South Korea and the United States have stepped up their joint military drills due to the rapid pace of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches since 2022.
While denouncing the South Korea-U.S. combined military drills as an act of provocation escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the North Korean Foreign Ministry also vigorously belittled the United States’ efforts to tackle its horrendous human rights issues at the United Nations Security Council. The North has a long history of denying allegations of human rights abuses. As the country has been completely isolated since the COVID-19 pandemic began, experts and international organizations have had more challenges to investigate the status of the North’s human rights issues.
“It is the inveterate evil practice of the U.S. that whenever it is driven into a tight corner as it can no longer contain the DPRK with the nuclear issue, it would resort to the moves for putting pressure on the latter over ‘human rights issue’ with mobilization of its followers like rabbles,” the Foreign Ministry said in its statement. “The futile anti-DPRK ‘human rights’ racket of the U.S. only shows that it has been driven to the last moment in the confrontation of strength with the DPRK.”
Defining the U.S. attempts to tackle its human rights issues as a politically motivated attempt to collapse its ideological and social system by tarnishing its image, the Foreign Ministry stated it would use “every possible means” to defend North Korea’s sovereignty.
“The DPRK solemnly declares once again that it will take the toughest counteraction against the most vicious hostile plots of the U.S. and its followers to thoroughly defend the national sovereignty and rights and interests,” the Foreign Ministry said.
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