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N. Korea tested a rail-fired missile in recent shots due to growing tensions with the U.S.

© Reuters. PHOTO PHOTO: A North Korean flag is flown at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 19, 2021. REUTERS / Lim Huey Teng / Photo File

Author: Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea tested a rail-fired missile in a firing exercise on Friday, KCNA state media reported on Saturday after the U.S. conducted final weapons tests to push for new sanctions against the isolated state.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said that two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) traveled about 430 km (267 miles) at a maximum altitude of 36 km (22 miles) after being fired eastward on the northwest coast of North Korea.

The official KCNA news agency did not specify the range or trajectory of the missiles, but said a shooting exercise had been conducted in North Pyongan Province to “verify and judge the skill of the railway regiment’s action procedures.”

The country first tested a rail-based system last September, saying it was designed as a potential attack on threatening forces.

Since New Year’s Day, North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles in an unusually fast sequence of weapon tests. In the previous two shots, the state media called them “hypersonic missiles,” which were capable of high-speed, and maneuvering after the launch.

A few hours before the final test attempt, North Korea punished the U.S. for imposing new sanctions in response to recent missile launches, warning it of “provocation” and a strong reaction.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the UN Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities.

North Korea has defended missile tests as a sovereign right to self-defense and accused the United States of deliberately escalating the situation with new sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend the drill. The KCNA said the military chief had ordered the test in a “short-term forecast” and that the system had accurately hit the target set on the east coast with “two tactical missiles guided”.

The system “showed a high rate of maneuverability and impact,” the KCNA said, adding that its success has sparked controversy, “for the proper implementation of a proper operating system of rail-transported missiles across the country.”

North Korea is constantly developing its weapons system, increasing its stakes in talks aimed at eliminating nuclear missiles and ballistic missiles in exchange for easing U.S. sanctions.

South Korean Chung Eui-yong and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the latest shot in a phone call Saturday and provided coordinated responses to the latest missile tests in the North, the State Department said.

The two sides stressed the importance of maintaining a strong combined stance and called on Pyongyang to return to a negotiating table, the Seoul Foreign Ministry said.

‘SHORT AGENDA’

Cheong Seong-chang, director of North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, said the test could be an “immediate show of strength” to protest the push for U.S. sanctions, and said it was not planned in advance and was unusually conducted. in the afternoon.

“It’s a message that they would take an‘ eye-to-eye ’approach if Washington calls for sanctions to test non-long-range missiles,” Cheong said.

The KCNA released photos showing a missile behind a column of smoke and fire as it crashed into the top of an olive-green train at a mountain site, ahead of an arrow on a small island, and raised a cloud of smoke and debris as it struck. .

Although North Korea’s limited and sometimes unreliable rail network, mobile missile rails are a relatively inexpensive and effective option to improve the survival of nuclear forces, making it difficult for enemies to detect and destroy them before they are launched, analysts say.

Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean Army officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea appears to have fired KN-23 SRBMs, and also fired tests in September when they ran 800 km (497 miles).

First tested in May 2019, the KN-23 is visually similar to Russia’s Iskander-M SRBM, and is designed to prevent missile defenses and precision strikes, experts say.


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