SEOUL: North Korea announced the successful test of a new high-precision, tactical guided missile, as its army threatened a “devastating” retaliation against South Korea for carrying out live fire drills near their maritime border.
The launch of the “cutting-edge” missile was watched by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, according to the North’s official KCNA news agency, which hailed the test as a “breakthrough.”
North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.
KCNA did not specify the timing of the test, but it appeared to coincide with the firing on Thursday of what South Korea described as three short-range projectiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea). The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling party, published pictures yesterday of the new missile being tested with Kim in attendance.
Kim reportedly stressed the weapon’s importance in providing a credible “pre-emptive” strike capability. South Korea’s defence ministry related the latest test to Pyongyang’s efforts to improve its large-calibre multiple rocket launching (MRL) systems. “The MRL ranges have been extended and guidance capabilities added to the projectiles,” spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.
Washington said it was looking into the technical specifics to determine the threat level.
“Technically, obviously any launch of anything is problematic, is escalatory in nature, is threatening,” said US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
On Thursday, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) condemned recent South Korean live fire drills near their disputed maritime border in the Yellow Sea. The statement described the drills as a “reckless provocation” and warned that frontline KPA units had rounded off preparations for a “devastating strike” in retaliation. “All they are waiting for is the order to be given by the Supreme Command,” it said.
The South’s defence ministry declined to confirm that any particular drills had taken place, but said routine exercises in the area were common.
Some analysts have suggested that North Korea might seek to raise tensions ahead of an expected visit to South Korea next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping. AFP