North Korea fires suspected artillery pieces into sea, says Seoul military
- South Korean officials worry North is upgrading weapons systems; last week Kim Jong-un talked of need to strengthen military capability
- Artillery tests draw less outside attention than missile launches but long-range artillery guns are still security threat to South’s metropolitan region
North Korea test-fired suspected artillery pieces into the sea on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for greater defence capability to cope with outside threats.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it detected several flight trajectories believed to be North Korean artillery on Sunday morning. It said South Korea maintains a firm military readiness in close coordination with the United States amid boosted surveillance on North Korea.
The North’s artillery tests draw less outside attention than its missile launches. But its forward-deployed long-range artillery guns are a serious security threat to South Korea’s populous metropolitan region, which is only 40-50 km (25-30 miles) from the border with North Korea.
The suspected artillery launches were the latest in a spate of weapons tests by North Korea this year in what foreign experts call an attempt to pressure its rivals Washington and Seoul to relax international sanctions against Pyongyang and make other concessions.
In a speech at a ruling party meeting last week, Kim underscored the need to strengthen his country’s military capability, saying the current security environment is “very serious”.
Kim’s speech carried by state media did not mention the United States or South Korea. But he still set forth “militant tasks” to be pursued by his armed forces and scientists, a suggestion that he would press ahead with his high-profile arms build-up plans.
A possible new nuclear test by North Korea would be the seventh of its kind. Some experts say North Korea is likely to use the test to build warheads to be mounted on tactical nuclear weapons aimed at hitting targets in South Korea.