North Korea hails successful test of ‘new type’ of missile designed to strike enemy battleships
The United States stepped up its military presence in the region, with its nuclear submarine the USS Cheyenne arriving in a South Korean port
Pyongyang on Friday hailed the successful test of a new type of surface-to-ship cruise missile, which it said was designed to hit “any enemy group of battleships” that threatened North Korea.
The launch on Thursday – the North’s fifth weapons test in a month – was overseen by leader Kim Jong-Un, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency, and came less than a week after the United Nations tightened sanctions against the reclusive nation.
“The launched cruise rockets accurately detected and hit the floating targets on the East Sea of Korea,” KCNA said, referring to the Sea of Japan where just last week, two US aircraft carriers were carrying out naval manoeuvres.
The USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan led the three-day exercise that ended June 3, with 12 other US ships and two Japanese vessels also participating, in a show of force directed at North Korea.
The US has also stepped up its muscle-flexing in the region, with its 6,900-tonne nuclear submarine the USS Cheyenne, whose home port is Pearl Harbor, arriving in the South Korean port of Busan on Tuesday.
North Korea has ordered three ballistic missile launches, a surface-to-air missile, and now Thursday’s cruise missile tests since South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in took power in early May.
Thursday’s short-range missiles flew about 200km, an improvement on a 2015 test when a North Korean surface-to-ship cruise missile flew only 100km, Korea Defence Forum analyst Shin Jong-Woo said.
“This is another sign of meaningful progress in the North’s efforts to diversify its missiles. It will pose a considerable threat to US and South Korean navies,” he said.
KCNA said the weapon that was tested on Thursday featured in a military parade in Pyongyang on April 15, which marked the birthday of the North’s founding father Kim Il-Sung.
All of the weapons on display at the extravagant military parade have been tested in the past month, except for one that analysts said appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korean leader Moon has advocated for reconciliation with the North, but shifted to a more stern position following the latest missile tests, posing a significant policy challenge to the left-leaning president.
The launches also came less than a week after the United Nations expanded sanctions against Kim Jong-Un’s regime in response to the string of recent ballistic missile tests.
Diplomats at the United Nations denounced Thursday’s launches as yet another provocation by North Korea, though no immediate meeting of the Security Council has been planned.
Cruise missile tests do not contravene UN regulations, Korea Defence Network analyst Lee Il-Woo said, adding they were “much slower than ballistic missiles and can be shot down by anti-aircraft guns”.
Any North Korean tests using ballistic missile technology are banned by UN resolutions.
However, the European Union on Thursday broadened its sanctions against North Korea over its work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
The EU said it would freeze the assets of 14 more people and ban their travel to Europe in line with a UN Security Council resolution last week for more sanctions over Pyongyang’s ballistic missile tests.
The North has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States – something President Trump has vowed “won’t happen”.