Seoul, January 15
North Korea on Saturday said it test-launched ballistic missiles from a train in what was seen as an apparent retaliation against fresh sanctions imposed by the Biden administration.
The report by the North state media came a day after South Korea’s military said it detected the North firing two missiles into the sea in its third weapons launch this month.
The launch came hours after Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement berating the United States for imposing new sanctions over the North’s previous tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance”.
North Korea in recent months has been ramping up tests of new missiles designed to overwhelm missile defences in the region amid pandemic-related border closures and a freeze in nuclear diplomacy with the United States.
Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going back to a tried-and-true technique of pressuring the United States and neighbours with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations meant to extract concessions.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Friday’s exercise was aimed at checking the alert posture of its army’s rail-borne missile regiment. The troops swiftly moved to the launch site after receiving the missile-test order on short notice and fired two “tactical guided” missiles that accurately struck a sea target, the report said.
The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of what appeared to be two different missiles soaring above from rail cars engulfed in smoke.
Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said the North likely staged a launch that hadn’t been previously planned to demonstrate its opposition towards US sanctions.
The missiles fired from rail cars appeared to be a solid-fuel short-range weapon the North has apparently modelled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic system. First tested in 2019, the missile is designed to be maneuverable and fly at low altitudes, which potentially improve their chances of evading and defeating missile systems.
The North first launched these missiles from a train in September last year as part of its efforts to diversify its launch options, which now includes various vehicles and may eventually include submarines depending on the country’s progress in its pursuit of such capabilities. AP