North Korean leader seen observing weapons test as country fires projectiles in eastern waters

By Yoonjung Seo and Jessie Yeung, CNN

North Korea fired two projectiles into waters off the eastern Korean peninsula on Saturday night, according to the South Korean military, the country’s 12th such test this year.

The projectiles were fired from North Korea’s Hamhung region around 6 p.m., South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement on Sunday. The projectiles traveled about 110 kilometers (about 68.3 miles) at an altitude of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles), with a top speed of Mach 4.0 or less, the statement said.

On Sunday, North Korean state media KCNA reported that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, observed the test firing of a “new type tactically guided weapon”, which was “carried out with success”.

KCNA claimed that the new weapon had bolstered the country’s “frontline long-range artillery units”.

Footage published by North Korea’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed a smiling Kim applauding as he watched what he said was the test-fire of the new tactical weapon.

Immediately after the launch, the South Korean military, intelligence agencies and the National Security Bureau held an emergency meeting to assess the situation and discuss countermeasures, according to the statement from the heads of state- joint major.

He added that the combined forces of the United States and South Korea were monitoring North Korea in real time and that all necessary measures were being taken.

Duyeon Kim, deputy principal researcher at the Center for a New American Security, said North Korea is aiming to make missiles capable of evading defense systems, with “features that can fly them under US radars.” States and South Korea”.

“These types of missiles particularly threaten South Korea and Japan and they are weapons that can be used or even start a conflict,” she said.

North Korea has increased its missile tests this year, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in more than four years on March 24, in defiance of international law.

In the first four months of 2022 alone, the North conducted 12 tests; in comparison, it only conducted four tests in 2020 and eight in 2021.

The ICBM would have been its most formidable yet – although missile experts and a South Korean military official later said it may be a less advanced weapon than previously thought previously.

Duyeon Kim said the tests could have several purposes: one being a message to the North Korean people that “their country is strong despite their apparent economic difficulties”.

North Korea also has “a national imperative to manufacture and perfect the kinds of advanced weapons that Kim Jong Un ordered last year,” she said. This year is significant for the country because of several important dates – including the 10th anniversary of Kim Jong Un’s reign and the 110th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung – one of South Korea’s most significant events. North. schedule.

Lee Sang-hyun, president of South Korean think tank Sejong Institute, said Kim could be under pressure “to show off his accomplishments”. April holds many of these important dates, providing an opportunity “to show the world their country’s missile and nuclear capabilities.”

Another reason for the recent tests could be to protest against joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises due to take place this month, experts said.

North Korea has long condemned the joint exercises as posing a serious threat to its security, accusing the United States of a “hostile policy” towards the country.

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