About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea yesterday test-fired a “new-type” tactical guided weapon, state-run media reported Friday, in a move it said aimed to send a warning to South Korea in light of upcoming drills and its recent deployment of new high-tech weapons on the peninsula.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally organized and guided the “power demonstration” of a “new-type” tactical guided weapon, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and the party daily the Rodong Sinmun said.
The South Korean military, state media reported, are “running high fever in their moves to introduce the ultramodern offensive weapons… and hold military exercises in defiance of the repeated warnings from the DPRK.”
The test, the media continued, “must have given uneasiness and agony to some of the forces it targeted, as it intended,” describing it as a “solemn warning” to Seoul.
The North Korean leader also offered “advice” to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, urging him to “understand in time the danger the developments will possibly bring” and “stop such suicidal acts as the introduction of ultra-modern weapons and military exercises.”
Kim urged Moon to return to his “proper stance” held last year, when the two held face-to-face meetings at the truce village of Panmunjom and in Pyongyang, North Korean media said.
“The South Korean chief executive should not make a mistake of ignoring warnings from Pyongyang, however offensive they may be.”
SENDING A MESSAGE
Thursday’s test-launch notably follows a strongly-worded by statement the North earlier in the month condemning South Korea’s decision to acquire two additional F-35A stealth jets from the U.S. and to deploy them on the peninsula.
In the statement, an unnamed director at the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Institute for American Studies said the move left Pyongyang with no choice but to develop and test “special armaments to completely destroy the lethal weapons reinforced in South Korea.”
During his guidance on Thursday, the DPRK leader urged top national defense science officials Jang Chang Ha and Jon Il Ho and others to turn Seoul’s ultra-modern weapons and equipment to “scrap iron at an early stage when it is considered necessary” in response to the “annoying situation” in the South.
“It is a work of top priority and a necessary activity for the security of the country to steadily develop powerful physical means and conduct tests… to neutralize those weapons that pose undeniable threats to the security of the country immediately,” Kim reportedly stressed.
The purpose of the weapons and equipment that the “bellicose forces of the South Korean military” are bringing into the peninsula is “absolutely clear,” he added.
Contacted by NK News early Friday morning, an official at South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said the ministry has not yet prepared an official statement in response to the North’s warning.
The Blue House, too, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The presidential National Security Office (NSO) on Thursday expressed “strong concern” that such actions by the North are not “helpful for the efforts of easing military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
In stark contrast to the North’s two rounds of testing in May, the NSO also swiftly confirmed that the North had launched two “new-type” short-range ballistic missiles.
Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress, scientist-in-residence at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said the North’s view that the F-35A Lightning stealth fighters “could be used for a deadly preemptive strike” was noteworthy.
“They clearly are worried that a F-35A Lightning II could be used for a preemptive strike as part of Kill Chain,” he told NK News.
“They probably see the F-35A as the advertisements for the fighter try to portray: impossible to see, and you can’t hit what you can’t see,” he added. “They especially use the words ‘ultra-modern’ which seems to point to the fact that they realize the F-35A is superior to their technology.”
It is “important to realize that by using the word ‘gliding’ they are not talking about ‘boost-glide’ weapons that the U.S./China/Russia/India etc are producing,” Dalnoki-Veress stressed.
“They are talking about something like the KN-23, having features of a cruise missile and a missile, just way faster than a cruise missile.”
North Korean state media reported Friday that Kim had been able to confirm the “specific features of the low-altitude gliding and flight orbit of the tactical guided missile, which will be hard to intercept, as well as its combat power.”
“The development and possession of such a state-of-the-art weaponry system is of a huge significance in developing our armed forces and guaranteeing the security of the country by military force,” he added.
SENDING A MESSAGE TO SEOUL… AND WASHINGTON?
Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said Thursday’s test was, despite the emphasis on South Korea, also likely aimed at the U.S.
Lee pointed to the two statements by the DPRK MFA last week warning the U.S. and South Korea against going ahead with a planned joint military exercise.
“Recall the two July 16 Foreign Ministry pronouncements tying the working-level talks to the suspension of the upcoming US-ROK joint military drills,” Lee said.
“What’s significant here is that by omitting any explicit mention of the U.S., the North Koreans are signaling that they are still interested in dialogue with the U.S.”
In the face of “potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the south,” the North Korean leader was reported Friday to have “emphasized that we can not but develop nonstop super powerful weapon systems.”
Kim’s guidance of test-launching new-type tactical guided weapon came less than four months after he reportedly oversaw a test of what state media also described as a “tactical guided weapon,” though no photos were published at the time.
North Korean media on Friday said the “power demonstration fire gave satisfactory verification once again to the efficiency indicators of the system.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) yesterday reported the North had test-launched two short-range missiles from a location in the vicinity of Wonsan city at 0534 and 0557 local time.
The two missiles flew 430 and 690 kilometers, respectively, both reaching an apogee of 50 kilometers.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: KCNA