North Korea launches cruise missile tests ahead of US-South Korea military drills

Pyongyang, North Korea - North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has overseen the launch of strategic cruise missiles as part of a drill, state-controlled media reported on Monday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a strategic cruise missile test aboard a navy warship in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on August 21, 2023.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a strategic cruise missile test aboard a navy warship in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on August 21, 2023.  © KCNA via REUTERS

Kim watched seamen staging the drill during a visit to a naval unit of the Korean People's Army (KPA), the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The launches from a patrol ship were successful and were carried "without even an error," according to the report.

The test aimed at making "the seamen skilled at carrying out the attack mission in actual war."

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South Korean Yonhap news agency said that South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff suggested many parts of the North's announcement were "exaggerated and different from facts."

Observers see the test as a response to joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States, which were scheduled to kick off a major 11-day summer maneuver on Monday.

The purpose of the exercises is to strengthen the alliance's defense and response capabilities. North Korea regularly accuses the two countries of using their exercises to prepare for an attack – something Seoul and Washington deny.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Guards 2nd Surface Ship Flotilla of the East Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on August 21, 2023.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the Guards 2nd Surface Ship Flotilla of the East Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Korean People's Army (KPA), in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on August 21, 2023.  © KCNA via REUTERS

UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles of any range, some of which are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Tests of cruise missiles are not subject to sanctions against Pyongyang. Such weapons, however, can also be used to deliver nuclear warheads.

After an unprecedented series of missile tests last year, North Korea has again tested nuclear-capable missiles several times this year.

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At a tripartite summit on Friday at Camp David in the US, President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol agreed to significantly strengthen cooperation in the field of defense.

At a cabinet meeting in Seoul on Monday President Yoon expressed his hope that trilateral cooperation would reduce "the risk of North Korean provocations."

Cover photo: KCNA via REUTERS

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