North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen a strategic cruise missile test as South Korea and the United States began annual military drills that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal of war.
The test took place as Kim visited a naval unit on the east coast, state-run news agency KCNA reported on Monday, where he was pictured standing on the deck of a vessel surrounded by officers. Another photo showed Kim on the quay watching a missile being fired.
KCNA did not specify the date of the trip or elaborate on the missiles themselves.
The launch was aimed at verifying the “combat function of the ship and the feature of its missile system,” while improving the sailors’ capability to carry out an “attack mission in actual war,”, KCNA said.
“The ship rapidly hit target without even an error,” it said.
Kim touted the ship for maintaining “high mobility and mighty striking power and constant preparedness for combat to cope with sudden situations”, KCNA added.
The state media report came hours before South Korea and the United States began the Ulchi Freedom Shield military exercises, which involve tens of thousands of troops from the two countries and are designed to enhance their joint responses to North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats.
Pyongyang has condemned the drills, which continue until August 31, as a rehearsal for war and has warned repeatedly of “overwhelming” action in response.
South Korea’s military has said this year’s exercises will be held on the “largest scale ever”, and also include some member states of the United Nations Command.
Speaking on Momday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the drills would be conducted under several contingency scenarios, including cyber, terror and drone attacks, and a disinformation campaign from the North.
“True peace is preserved only by overwhelming force, not by one-sided begging or goodwill,” Yoon told a meeting of the National Security Council. “North Korea talks about preemptive nuclear strikes and preparations for an offensive war, but we will immediately and overwhelmingly retaliate for any provocations.”
Suspected North Korean hackers have already targeted the exercises with email attacks on South Korean contractors working at the allies’ combined exercise war simulation centre, according to police.
South Korean legislators warned last week that Pyongyang could try to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile or take other military action to protest against the drills or the unprecedented summit of the leaders of South Korea, the US and Japan.
North Korea has been constantly testing what it calls “strategic cruise missiles” since late 2021 and some analysts have said the missiles could be tipped with nuclear bombs. In March, North Korea, which has been working to modernise its military arsenal, showcased what it said was a new nuclear-capable underwater attack drone.
On board the ship, Kim pledged to reinforce the navy with “improved combat efficiency and full modern means of surface and underwater offensive and defensive” capabilities, KCNA said.
“We would put spurs to the modernisation of naval weapons and equipment including the building of powerful warships and the development of shipboard and underwater weapon systems,” he was quoted as saying.
“The Navy should thoroughly keep constant mobility and steadily increase the capability for actual war so that they can actively carry out their combat missions in the unfavourable circumstances.”
Source : Aljazeera