Monday, 18 October, 2021

North Korea tests long-range cruise missile in arms race with South Korea


Although its officials declined to reveal details, local news media reported that the SLBM was launched from the country’s newly built Dosan Ahn Changho-class attack submarine, The New York Times reported.

South Korea’s military did not disclose whether it had detected the North’s latest tests, but said on Monday it was conducting a detailed analysis in cooperation with the United States.

The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) said it was aware of the reports and was coordinating with its allies and partners.

US military tanks conduct an exercise in Yeoncheon, near the border with North Korea, South Korea on Friday.

US military tanks conduct an exercise in Yeoncheon, near the border with North Korea, South Korea on Friday.Credit:AP

“This activity highlights [North Korea’s] continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that poses to its neighbours and the international community,” the Command said in a statement.

Rodong Sinmun, the ruling Workers’ Party’s official newspaper, ran photos of the new cruise missile flying and being fired from a transporter-erector-launcher.

The test provides “strategic significance of possessing another effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military manoeuvres of the hostile forces,” KCNA said.

It was seen as the North’s first missile launch after it tested a new tactical short-range ballistic missile in March. North Korea also conducted a cruise missile test just hours after US President Joe Biden took office in late January.

Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies, said intermediate-range land-attack cruise missiles were no less a threat than ballistic missiles and were a pretty serious capability for North Korea.

“This is another system that is designed to fly under missile defence radars or around them,” Lewis said on Twitter.

Cruise missiles and short-range ballistic missiles that can be armed with either conventional or nuclear bombs are particularly destabilising in the event of conflict as it can be unclear which kind of warhead they are carrying, analysts said.

A test of a cruise missile launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea in 2017.

A test of a cruise missile launch at an undisclosed location in North Korea in 2017.Credit:AP

Kim did not appear to have attended the test, with KCNA saying Pak Jong-chon, a member of the Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo and a secretary of its central committee, oversaw it.

The reclusive North has long accused the United States and South Korea of “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.

The unveiling of the test came just a day before chief nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo to explore ways to break the stand-off with North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, is also scheduled to visit Seoul on Tuesday for talks with his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong.

The Biden administration has said it is open to diplomacy to achieve North Korea’s denuclearisation, but has shown no willingness to ease sanctions.

Sung Kim, the US envoy for North Korea, said in August in Seoul that he was ready to meet with North Korean officials “anywhere, at any time”.

A reactivation of inter-Korean hotlines in July raised hopes for a restart of the negotiations, but the North stopped answering calls as annual South Korea-US military exercises began last month, which Pyongyang had warned could trigger a security crisis.

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