North Korea conducts drill for short-range missiles
Leader Kim Jong Un stressed need to 'defend the political sovereignty' of nation
SEOUL: North Korea has conducted a "strike drill" for multiple launchers, firing tactical guided weapons into the East Sea in a military drill supervised by leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday, Pyongyang's state media reported yesterday.
The purpose of the drill was to test performance of "large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defence units," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Photographs released by KCNA showed the weapons fired could be short-range ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, according to Mr Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in South Korea.
While such a missile launch would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, it did not involve long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
"What was sobering for me was that unexpectedly, there was a photo of short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missile, otherwise known as the North's version of Iskander," said the institute's Mr Kim. The new, solid fuel ballistic missiles can fly as far as 500km, putting the entire Korean Peninsula within its range and are capable of neutralising the advanced US anti-missile defence system deployed in South Korea, the military analyst said.
The South Korean defence ministry, however, put the range of weapons fired on Saturday at between 70km and 240km.
Giving orders on Saturday for the test firing, North Korean leader Kim stressed the need to "increase the combat ability so as to defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance" of North Korea in the face of threats and invasions, the report said.
The statement came a day after the test firing, which analysts interpreted as an attempt to exert pressure on Washington to give ground in negotiations to end the North's nuclear programme after a summit in February ended in failure.
North Korea had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missiles testing in place since 2017, which US President Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed out as an important achievement from his engagement with Pyongyang.
"With North Korea never promising to completely stop all missile testing - it only promised a self-imposed moratorium of testing long-range missiles such as (intercontinental ballistic missiles) that can hit the US homeland - we should not be shocked by North Korea's short-range launch," said Mr Harry Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.
The latest test firing prompted Seoul to call on its communist neighbour to "stop acts that escalate military tension on the Korean Peninsula" on Saturday, while Mr Trump said on Twitter that he was still confident he could have a deal with Mr Kim.
"I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it," hewrote.
"He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!" - REUTERS
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