North Korea fired two tactical guided missiles from railcars in a Friday morning drill that “precisely struck the set target in the East Sea of Korea,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
South Korea’s military said earlier that North Korea appeared to have launched two short-range ballistic missiles that flew about 430 kilometres and reached 36km in altitude. It was North Korea’s third volley of missiles in less than 10 days, which included two separate tests of a new hypersonic missile system designed to evade US-operated interceptors.
In a video of a previous rail-based test launch, a state TV announcer boasted that North Korea now has “a railway mobile missile regiment that enhances our ability for a simultaneous and concentrated strike on our threats, and better respond to various threats.”
North Korea warned Friday it would take a “stronger and certain reaction” after the US sanctioned individuals associated with Pyongyang’s weapons program, saying tests this month of its hypersonic missile system were part of its “legitimate right” to enhance its self-defence. A few hours after the statement appeared on official media, North Korea fired off the two suspected ballistic missiles in what may have been an effort to show it could back its words with a quick response.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the recent ballistic missile launches, which were in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, according to an emailed statement on Friday.
The tests in January come after leader Kim Jong Un told a year-end meeting of top ruling party officials he was more interested in bolstering his arsenal than returning to nuclear talks with the US that were stalled for nearly three years. In his remarks, Kim urged North Korea to focus on easing food shortages and containing Covid-19, while suggesting disarmament talks were a low priority in the coming months.
The Biden administration has indicated it could offer financial rewards, such as easing global sanctions, that have squeezed North Korea in return for verifiable disarmament steps.
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