North Korean cruise missile tests join country’s provocative debut in 2024


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s weekend test of new submarine-launched cruise missiles added to its provocative start to 2024, as leader Kim Jong Un showed off his growing nuclear arsenal and drew criticism from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. Threatened with nuclear conflict.

Kim has gained confidence from the progress of his nuclear weapons program strengthened relations with Russia Because he wants to get out of diplomatic isolation and strengthen his footing against the United States.

Kim also likely wants to maintain a sense of external threat as he seeks tighter control over a population that has long suffered from an economic crisis.

North Korea’s military actions and hostile statements in January have raised concerns that it is stepping up pressure in the United States and South Korea in an election year.

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Days after the year-end political summit, at which Kim accused South Korea of ​​hostility, North Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells over three consecutive days near the disputed western maritime border with South Korea, in response to also did similar firing.

Although the artillery fire did not cause any casualties or damage on either side, the disputed maritime boundary could emerge as a flash point.

At a January 15 meeting of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim reiterated that his country does not recognize the northern boundary line, which was drawn up by the US-led UN Command in the late 1950s . 53 Korean War. North Korea insists on a border that encroaches deeply into waters currently controlled by South Korea.

Kim said that if South Korea “violates even 0.001 millimeter of our territorial land, air and water, it would be considered an incitement to war.”

Concerns about a military clash have grown in recent months as both Koreas have taken steps that violate a 2018 military agreement to reduce border tensions, in which border buffers and no-fly zones were established .

The poorly marked western maritime border was the site of bloody naval skirmishes between the Koreas in 1999, 2002 and 2009. North Korea reportedly torpedoed a South Korean warship in March 2010, killing 46 South Korean sailors, and fired its artillery bombardments near Yeonpyeong Island. Four South Koreans died at the disputed border in November 2010.

On January 14, North Korea conducted the first flight test of a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile, which it said was equipped with a hypersonic warhead.

The launch reflects Kim’s pursuit of more powerful, harder-to-detect weapons designed to strike remote US targets in the Pacific, including the military base on Guam.

North Korea’s current medium-range ballistic missiles are powered by liquid-fuel engines, which must be filled with fuel before launch and cannot remain unfueled for long periods of time. Solid propellant missiles are faster to launch and easier to transport and conceal, making them harder for adversaries to detect and counter.

Since 2021, North Korea has been testing hypersonic weapons designed to travel at five times the speed of sound. If completed, they could pose a challenge to missile defense systems due to their speed and maneuverability. So far, experts say it is unclear whether its hypersonic vehicles are capable of consistently maintaining speeds faster than Mach 5 during their tests.

North Korea has a wide range of solid-fuel short-range missiles targeting South Korea and last year tested a solid-fuel intercontinental-range ballistic missile for the first time, capable of reaching the US mainland. It added to its arsenal of long-range weapons designed for combat. ,

Designating South Korea as a top enemy

A day after the intermediate-range missile test, Kim announced in the Supreme People’s Assembly that North Korea was abandoning its long-term goal of reconciliation with South Korea and ordered the rewriting of its constitution to declare that The South is its most hostile foreign rival. ,

In a fiery speech, Kim accused South Korea of ​​acting as a “high-ranking puppet” of Washington, citing joint US-South Korean military exercises being expanded in response to North Korea’s weapons testing activity. . Kim said that if provoked, he would use his nuclear weapons to destroy South Korea.

Analysts say North Korea no longer watches south korea As a useful middleman to extract concessions from Washington, and instead building a more assertive presence in global affairs and hindering efforts to negotiate the easing of US-led sanctions from a position of strength.

Satellite images analyzed by The Associated Press last week indicate North Korea has broken a huge arch It is a symbol of rapprochement with South Korea in the capital after Kim called it an “eyesore” that should be done away with.

Under the supervision of test-firing of cruise missiles Designed to be launched from submarines, Kim reiterated his goal of creating a nuclear-armed navy to counter growing external threats. State media said Kim also emphasized North Korean efforts to build nuclear-powered submarines, although experts say that would require significant outside help.

It was not immediately clear whether the cruise missiles were fired from the submarine or from the underwater test boat. South Korea’s military says North Korea may have exaggerated the performance of the missiles, which North Korea said flew for more than two hours before accurately hitting an island target.

Experts say North Korea will need considerable time, resources and technological improvements to build at least several submarines that can travel quietly and reliably carry out attacks.

Copyright 2024 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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