Friday, February 24, state media said that North Korea conducted a test launch of four strategic cruise missiles as part of an exercise aimed to demonstrate its ability to mount a nuclear reprisal against foreign forces.
State news agency KCNA reported that an operational strategic cruise missile unit of the Korean People’s Army fired four “Hwasal-2” missiles in the vicinity of Kim Chaek City, North Hamgyong Province, towards the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, February 23.
Other units performed training in weaponry at fortified areas without live firing, the report added.
According to the report, the four strategic cruise missiles hit a predetermined target after traveling “2,000 km (1,243 miles) in elliptical and eight-shaped flight orbits for 10,208 to 10,224 seconds.”
The drill highlighted “the battle posture of the DPRK nuclear combat force reinforcing its lethal nuclear counterattack capabilities against hostile forces,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.
South Korea and Japan, which are typically the first nations to detect and disclose such launches publicly, did not announce the missile launches.
South Korea’s defense ministry stated that the launch was watched, but that there were “differences” between what the United States and South Korea detected and the North’s declaration, without providing any detail.
The launch occurred as US and South Korean officials participated in a tabletop, or simulated, exercise centered on the potential use of nuclear weapons by North Korea.
In a separate dispatch, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry lambasted the United States and its allies for convening a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss its recent spate of missile launches.
North Korea has accused the United Nations of being “unfair” over its military activities, while remaining silent regarding joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
Kwon Jong Gun, the ministry’s director general for US affairs, reaffirmed that North Korea will consider “severe countermeasures” if the United Nations continues to be used as a “Washington pressure instrument” against Pyongyang.
“If the Security Council becomes a venue that judges justice for injustice and legality for illegality, under the sway of the United States and its allies, it would only end in undesirable outcomes that heighten military tensions,” Kwon said in a statement quoted by KCNA.
Notwithstanding sanctions imposed by United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit the nuclear-armed state’s missile programs, North Korea has continued to develop and mass produce new missiles.
Several launches, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday, have been described by state media as training exercises aimed to enhance the capabilities of the people operating the weapons.
This week, the US-based Center for International and Strategic Studies stated in a paper that these demonstrations could be construed as missile drills as opposed to developmental testing.
North Korea could test-fire ICBMs on a lower, longer trajectory and perform its seventh nuclear test this year, according to intelligence officials cited by South Korean MPs on Wednesday.
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