Update at 14:30 and 15:00 KST: this article has been updated to include further details from a back-briefing by an official from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND).
North Korea launched multiple anti-ship cruise missiles from Kangwon province on its east coast Tuesday morning, South Korea’s military said in a statement, amid a flurry of additional reported military activity by Pyongyang.
The projectiles — “presumed to be short-range cruise missiles” — were fired after 07:00 this morning from the east-coast city of Munchon, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and an official from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said.
South Korea understands the test represented that of a missile similar to the “carrier killer” launched by Pyongyang in June 2017, the official told media at a back briefing. The projectiles reportedly flew more than 150 kilometers, they added.
A flurry of military activity was also detected in the nearby city of Wonsan, the official said, where several Sukhoi fighter jets from the Korean People’s Army Air Force (KPAAF) were reported to have engaged in some launching of arms.
Determining whether the two events were connected required “more analysis,” they stressed.
Also detected in recent days, the official added, was “airspace defense” activity by North Korean MiG fighter jets.
The test comes one day ahead of the Day of the Sun, a major holiday in North Korea marking the birthday of the country’s founding President Kim Il Sung.
The new system is significant: if deployed, it could pose a major threat to foreign naval assets stationed near the peninsula, with one expert telling NK News the test had likely been of a shore-to-sea cruise missile.
“It’s very disturbing that the North Koreans have exercised their ability to continuously improve capabilities,” said LTG Chun In-bum, a former three star general in the South Korean army.
“It’s unfortunate that they’re still focusing on their military when the whole world is fighting a different kind of enemy.”
Another analyst said the test may represent a “possible evolution of North Korea’s coastal defense cruise missiles.”
“It is less likely that they’ve developed a true anti-ship ballistic missile,” Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told NK News.
“It’s no surprise that they’d seek ways to hold carriers at risk, and they’ve exhibited some proficiency with multimodal seekers with the KN-19.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was also over the weekend reported to have overseen a series of drills by fighter jets from North Korea’s air force, praising the unit’s readiness and urging a “ratcheting up” of exercises.
The launch represents Pyongyang’s fifth missile test event so far this year, following a firing of what the country’s described as “super-large multiple rocket launchers” on March 29.
Testing has so far this year focused on short-range, tactical missile types, including those launched from large-caliber multiple rocket launchers, and provoked a markedly muted reaction from the U.S.
Update at 14:30 and 15:00 KST: this article has been updated to include further details from a back-briefing by an official from South Korea's Ministry of National Defense (MND).
North Korea launched multiple anti-ship cruise missiles from Kangwon province on its east coast Tuesday morning, South Korea's military said in a statement, amid a flurry of additional reported military activity by Pyongyang.