North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a strategic cruise missile test, reported by state media KCNA on Monday. This comes as South Korea and the United States commence their annual military exercises, which Pyongyang sees as war rehearsal.
Kim inspected a navy fleet on the east coast, overseeing the test from a warship, as per KCNA, without indicating the visit’s date.
The launch was aimed at verifying the “combat function of the ship and the feature of its missile system” while improving the sailors’ capability to carry out an “attack mission in actual war”, KCNA said, noting that the ship’s missile hit its target.
Kim touted the ship for maintaining “high mobility and mighty striking power and constant preparedness for combat to cope with sudden situations,” KCNA said.
South Korea’s defence ministry said it had detected signs of the launch but that the claims in KCNA were “exaggerated” and “different from the facts” without elaboration.
Reuters reported that the latest missile test came as South Korea and the United States began the Ulchi Freedom Shield summer exercises on Monday, designed to enhance their joint responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
Pyongyang has criticized the joint military exercises by the allies, labelling them as a practice for nuclear warfare.
South Korea’s military plans its largest-ever exercises, involving tens of thousands of troops from both sides and UN Command members. President Yoon Suk Yeol said the drills will cover various scenarios, including cyber threats, terror attacks, drones, and North’s disinformation campaigns.
“True peace is preserved only by overwhelming force, not by one-sided begging or goodwill,” Yoon told a meeting of the National Security Council. “North Korea talks about preemptive nuclear strikes and preparations for an offensive war, but we will immediately and overwhelmingly retaliate for any provocations.”
South Korean lawmakers suggest North Korea might launch a missile or take military action against allies’ drills and the recent South Korea-US-Japan summit.