North Korea said on Thursday that it successfully launched ballistic missiles from a train for the first time and continued to strengthen its defense, hours after two Koreas tested missiles in addition to a double display of military prowess.
Wednesday’s launch marked a return to tensions between rivals amid a long-standing stalemate in US-led talks aimed at removing North Korea from its nuclear weapons program.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said the missiles were launched during a drill by a “railway-propelled missile regiment” that carried the weapon system along rail tracks in the country’s mountainous central region and struck a missile 800 kilometers away. Hit the marine target accurately.
State media showed two separate missiles were visible from rail-car launchers engulfed in orange flames along tracks surrounded by dense forest.
A rail-based ballistic system reflects North Korea’s efforts to diversify its launch systems, which now include vehicles and ground launch pads and may eventually include submarines. Launching a missile from a train can increase mobility because North Korea has a nationwide railway network, but its simple rail networks can also become easy targets during a crisis.
South Korean and Japanese forces have previously said two short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone but outside its territorial waters. The last time a North Korean missile landed inside that area was in October 2019.
Pak Jong Chon, a senior North Korean official seen as influential in the country’s missile development, said Wednesday’s tests were successfully conducted in line with the “strategic and tactical design and intent” of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. .
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed at a party congress in January to strengthen his nuclear deterrent in the face of US-led sanctions and pressure on more sophisticated weapons, including long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines. Issued a long wish list. , spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons.
In another weapons demonstration over the weekend, the North said it tested new cruise missiles, which it intends to make nuclear-capable, that can strike targets 1,500 kilometers away, destroying Japanese and US military installations. Keeps within reach.
Hours after North Korea’s latest launches, South Korea reported its first test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Moon’s office said that as President Moon and other top officials observed, the missile took off from a submarine and hit a designated target. It did not say how far the weapon flew.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the North Korean leader, criticized Moon and threatened the “complete destruction” of bilateral ties over her remarks in the wake of the tests.
South Korea, which does not have nuclear weapons and is instead protected by the US, is ramping up efforts to build its conventional weapons, including the development of more powerful missiles. Moon, observing Wednesday’s tests, said the South’s growing conventional missile capability would serve as a “definite deterrence” against North Korean provocations.
Kim Yo Jong took offense at Moon, describing North Korea’s weapons demonstrations as provocation and warned of dire consequences in inter-Korean relations if he continued with what he described as North Korea’s slander. .
He said that North Korea is developing its military capabilities for self-defense without targeting any specific country, and South Korea is also increasing its military capabilities. North Korea has often accused the South of hypocrisy in introducing modern weapons, while calling for talks to ease tensions between divided countries.
Professor Kim Dong-yub of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said North Korean photos indicate the rail-fired missiles were a solid-fuel, short-range weapon that the North first tested from a truck launcher in 2019 had gone.
The missiles, based on Russia’s Iskander missiles, are designed to fly at relatively low altitudes, where the air is dense enough to allow maneuverability in flight, making interception by missile defense systems more difficult.
While the North is trying to broaden its launch systems, analyst Kim questions whether rail-mobile missiles will meaningfully improve the country’s military capabilities when the North’s simple rail networks are easy targets during the crisis.
Experts say North Korea is building its weapons systems to pressure the United States in hopes of getting relief from economic sanctions aimed at forcing it to abandon its nuclear arsenal. US-led talks on the issue have been stalled for more than two years.
Kim Jong Un’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s proposals for talks, demanding that Washington drop “hostile” policies at first. But North Korea has retained its own moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, a sign that it does not want to completely eliminate the possibility of resuming talks.
Observers say Moon’s government, which is actively seeking reconciliation with North Korea, may have taken strong action in response to criticism that it is too soft on the North.
Rival nations are still technically at war since the Korean War of 1950–53, which pitted North and ally China against South and US-led United Nations forces, a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. ended in