North Korea launched a new missile into the ocean, South Korean military sources quoted by the Yonhap news agency announced early Friday (local time).
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally oversaw ballistic missile tests in recent weeks, billed as tactical nuclear deployment exercises.
A North Korean army spokesman said the military exercises were ordered in response to “provocative” actions by South Korean artillery near the common border.
The Korean People’s Army (KPA) thus sent “a severe warning to the South Korean military who incite military tension in the front area with reckless action,” the spokesman added, quoted by the North Korean state news agency KCNA.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South Korean Armed Forces indicated that ten North Korean planes were detected 25 kilometers from the border demarcation line at 10:30 p.m. local time on Thursday and 12:30 a.m. on Friday.
The North Korean aircraft crossed the “reconnaissance line,” prompting Seoul to send several aircraft, including F-35A fighter jets, to the area, according to that report, cited by Yonhap.
On Thursday, North Korea reported that it had launched two long-range strategic cruise missiles on Wednesday.
The projectiles traveled 2,000 km over the sea and hit their targets, KCNA said, adding that Kim expressed “great satisfaction” with the test.
It is the latest launch in a series of weapons tests that have heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula and raised fears that Pyongyang will carry out its first nuclear test since 2017.
North Korea said this week that its recent missile tests included “tactical nuclear” exercises to simulate an attack on the South.
Wednesday’s test “means that the North is operating with a tactical nuclear capability in cruise missiles, which are more difficult to detect because of their low-altitude flight,” Hong Min of Korea’s National Unification Institute told AFP.
Following Wednesday’s tests, Kim said North Korea should “expand the operational sphere of strategic nuclear forces.”
“Kim Jong Un stressed that we should focus all efforts on the endless and accelerated development of the national armed forces for nuclear combat,” KCNA said.
For Kim, obtaining tactical nuclear weapons – smaller and lighter, designed for use on the battlefield – is a priority raised at a Communist Party congress in January 2021.
The country revised its nuclear laws in September to allow preemptive strikes, and Kim declared North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power, closing the door to negotiations over its arsenal.
Since then, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have stepped up joint military exercises, including the deployment of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that has angered Pyongyang, which sees such exercises as an invasion rehearsal.
In response, North Korean army units involved “in the tactical nuclear weapons operation conducted drills from September 25 to October 9 to check and assess nuclear war deterrence and counterattack capability,” the North Korean agency said.
The report also indicates that the North Korean missile that flew over Japan on October 4 and triggered alarm in that country was a “new type of intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile.”