North Korea confirmed on Saturday that it tested ballistic missiles from a train in what was seen as an apparent retaliation against new sanctions imposed by the United States.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the drill was aimed at “checking and judging mastery of action procedures” of the missile, adding that the two guided missiles hit a set target in the East Sea.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted its military as saying the latest projectiles flew about 430 km (267 miles) at an altitude of 36 km (22 miles) and a maximum speed of Mach 6 (7,350 kilometers per hour), six times the speed of sound.
The North Korean state media report came a day after South Korea’s military said on Friday it detected the firing of two missiles into the sea by its neighboring country in what became the third launch of weapons this month.
The test came hours after Pyongyang’s foreign ministry issued a statement scolding the United States for imposing new sanctions on the North’s previous tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “position of confrontation”.
North Korea in recent months has stepped up testing of new missiles designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region amid pandemic-related border closures and a nuclear diplomacy freeze with the United States.
Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reverting to a tried-and-true technique of pressuring neighboring countries and the United States with outrageous missile launches and threats before offering negotiations aimed at securing concessions.
KCNA said Friday’s exercise was aimed at checking the alert posture of its army’s rail missile regiment.
Troops quickly moved to the launch site after being ordered to test the missile on short notice and fired two “tactically guided” missiles that accurately hit a marine target, the report said.
North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun published photos of what appeared to be two different missiles hovering above train cars engulfed in smoke.
Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said North Korea likely staged a previously unplanned launch to demonstrate its opposition to US sanctions.
Solid Fuel Short Range Weapon
The railcar-fired missiles appeared to be a solid-fueled, short-range weapon that North Korea apparently modeled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic system.
First tested in 2019, the missile is designed to be maneuverable and fly at low altitudes, potentially improving its chances of evading and defeating missile systems.
North Korea first launched these missiles from a train in September last year as part of its effort to diversify its launch options, which now include various vehicles and could eventually include submarines. sailors, depending on the country’s progress in pursuing these capabilities.
Firing a missile from a train could add mobility, but some experts say North Korea’s simple rail networks running through its relatively small territory would be quickly destroyed by enemies during a crisis.
The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five North Koreans for their role in obtaining equipment and technology for their country’s missile programs – a response to North Korea’s previous tests this month .
The Treasury Department’s announcement came just hours after North Korea said Kim oversaw a successful test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday that it said would significantly increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrent.” Tuesday’s test was North Korea’s second demonstration of its alleged hypersonic missile in a week.
(2nd LD) North Korea announces the firing of 2 embarked guided missiles in the East Sea https://t.co/ymUm7zmdNl
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) January 14, 2022
Hours before Friday’s launch, the KCNA released a statement attributed to an unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson, which insisted that the new sanctions underscore hostile US intent. aimed at “isolating and suffocating” the country.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5 (6,125 km/h), or five times the speed of sound, could pose a critical challenge to missile defenses due to their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on a wish list of sophisticated military assets Kim unveiled early last year, along with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles and nuclear missiles. launched by submarines.
Still, experts say North Korea would need years of more successful, longer-range testing before acquiring a credible hypersonic system.
A US-led diplomatic push to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2019 after the Trump administration rejected Pyongyang’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal that he clearly sees as his best guarantee of survival, despite significant setbacks to the country’s economy due to pandemic-related border closures and lingering sanctions imposed by United States.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s call to resume dialogue without preconditions, saying the United States must first abandon its “hostile policy”, a term Pyongyang mainly uses to describe the sanctions and combined US-Korean military exercises.