North Korea says the Allies’ military exercises are an exercise for war, so its weapons are vital for defense.
North Korea fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine in a show of force just hours before the United States and South Korea began their largest joint military exercise in five years.
The tests, reported by state media on Monday, came days after leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a series of weapons launches and ordered his soldiers to step up efforts to fend off his rivals’ “frantic war preparations”.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the missile launches showed Pyongyong’s determination to respond with “overwhelmingly powerful forces” to alleged military maneuvers by “the US imperialists and South Korean puppet forces”.
KCNA also suggested that North Korea is aiming to arm the cruise missiles tested with nuclear warheads.
Pyongyang regards military exercises between the US and South Korea as rehearsals for an invasion and argues that its nuclear and missile programs are necessary for self-defense.
The US and South Korean armies began their ‘Freedom Shield’ exercises early Monday, the first such large-scale exercises to be held since 2018, when they were suspended in support of renewed diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea. to secure.
The latest exercises include a computer simulation called Freedom Shield 23 and several combined field training exercises, collectively known as Warrior Shield FTX.
The exercises are scheduled to last at least 10 days and will focus on the “changing security environment” amid North Korea’s rising nuclear threat, the South Korean and US forces said.
North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests in 2022 and adopted an increasingly aggressive nuclear doctrine.
The state news agency reported that the missiles flew for more than two hours in final tests, drawing figure-eight patterns over the waters off the country’s east coast and hitting targets 1,500 km (932 mi) away.
The missiles were fired from the 8.24 Yongung, KCNA said, referring to a submarine that North Korea has used since 2016 to conduct all of its known submarine-launched ballistic missile tests.
Earlier, the South Korean military said it detected the launch of a submarine in the waters off North Korea’s east coast in Sinpo on Sunday. The North Korean port city has a large shipyard for building submarines.
Experts say Kim is trying to pressure the US to accept North Korea as a legitimate nuclear power and to ease international sanctions crippling the economy.
“North Korea will use the Freedom Shield 2023 exercise to unite its people and as an excuse to continue investing in weapons of mass destruction,” Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean army general, told AFP news agency.
“More missile launches with variations in style and range can be expected, even in a nuclear test. More acts of intimidation from North Korea should come as no surprise.”
Washington has repeatedly reiterated its “ironclad” commitment to South Korea’s defense, including using “the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear”.