North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took part in a successful test of a new strategic-guided missile that would help improve the effectiveness of strategic nuclear operations, state media in Pyongyang reported Sunday.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the new missile system is “significant in improving the firepower of frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing DPRK’s strategic nuclear weapons handling and diversification.”
“The test-fire was successfully carried out,” it said, without disclosing any additional information about the weapon in question, such as its type.
The South Korean military later said it had identified two northern missile launches in the East Sea at 6pm on Saturday. They flew 110 kilometers at a high speed of Mach 4, with an apogee of about 25 kilometers.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president’s national security office, military and intelligence agencies held an emergency meeting shortly after launch to discuss the issue.
According to local observers, the North appears to have tested a newly built heavy artillery system or advanced KN-23 missile, which is a rival to the North’s US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).
The Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) has two tubes, according to photos provided by KCNA, and the tactical weapon itself is similar to the KN-23 missile, based on the Russian Alexander ballistic missile. The missile can be modified by the north to accommodate several TEL tubes.
The KN-23 has a flight range of 400 to 600 kilometers, which allows it to attack South Korea. Instead of flying in a straight line, the missile takes a more complex path by performing a so-called pull-up technique during its flight.
Inspecting the launch, Kim offered important advice on “building the country’s defense capabilities and nuclear warfare.”
Kim praised the national defense scientific research sector for its “continued success in achieving the core goal of war prevention” set at the party’s eighth congress last year.
He added that the long-term goal of the ruling party’s central committee was to improve the country’s defense capabilities.
North Korea announced its intention to expand its weapons capabilities during the Workers’ Congress in January, including the development of strategic nuclear weapons, hypersonic gliding aircraft warheads, nuclear-powered submarines and recovery satellites.
The new test comes as South Korea and the United States prepare to begin their major spring military exercises on Monday. There are growing fears that Pyongyang will soon conduct another nuclear test.
This is the country’s 13th known projectile flight test this year, and the first since Pyongyang launched a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month, according to Pyongyang.
On Friday, the North celebrated the 110th birthday of its founder, Kim Il-sung, with a large-scale celebration, but no military march was reported.
Image Credit: Yonhap
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