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North Korea fires third cruise missile salvo in past week

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. North Korea fired several cruise missiles on Jan. 28, Seoul's military said, the latest in a series of tension-raising moves by the nuclear-armed state. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles toward waters off its west coast, South Korea’s military said, adding to a barrage of launches for weapons Pyongyang said are designed to enhance its nuclear-strike capabilities.

The launch took place at about 7 a.m. Tuesday and further details were not immediately available. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a message to reporters that the country’s military is closely cooperating with its U.S. ally to conduct a detailed analysis.

The latest launch is the third salvo of cruise missiles fired by North Korea in the past week. The state’s official media usually comments on the launches about a day after they take place.

Over the weekend, Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of what North Korea billed as newly developed cruise missiles for use in submarines. The missiles are designed to help the country’s navy deliver an atomic attack, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

It released images showing a missile emerging from the water, without saying if it was fired from a submarine or an underwater platform

In September, North Korean held a launching ceremony for a new submarine it said was capable of tactical nuclear attacks. The initial images showed the submarine likely had 10 tubes for missiles and is a modernized Soviet-designed Romeo Class boat, specialist publication Naval News said in an analysis.

Although North Korea is barred by U.N. Security Council resolutions from testing ballistic missiles, it faces no such prohibitions on cruise missiles.

Ballistic missiles fly in an arced trajectory at supersonic speeds and are unpowered on descent. Cruise missiles travel at typically subsonic speeds and can fly at low altitudes. They are maneuverable, making them harder to detect and intercept.

In addition to the cruise missiles, North Korea in mid-January tested an underwater drone it said could deliver a nuclear strike — something doubted by weapons experts.

In one of its biggest recent provocations, North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile in early January capable of hitting U.S. bases in Asia in its first such launch of 2024. The state’s official media said it was a “hypersonic” missile, indicating it deployed a reentry vehicle that could carry a nuclear warhead and maneuver at high speeds.

Through the tests, Kim is likely showing he has a variety of methods to launch a strike, adding to the planning contingencies for the U.S. and its allies in the region — Japan and South Korea.

Kim and his official media have been lashing out at the U.S. and South Korea for almost every day over the past month, with the North Korean leader saying the time for peaceful unification with South Korea is over and seeking to erase the concept from the country’s constitution.

Over the weekend, North Korea’s biggest newspaper Rodong Sinmun, published an article calling the U.S. “the enemy of humankind,” that said Washington is pushing the peninsula to the brink of war.

Kim, meanwhile, has stepped up his cooperation with Russia. The U.S. and South Korea have accused him of sending massive amounts of munitions to President Vladimir Putin to help him in his invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusation but satellite imagery since October shows a steady flow of shipping between the two countries likely conducted in territorial waters of the two to avoid international interdiction.


© 2024 Bloomberg L.P

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