North Korea tests cruise missiles amid escalating tensions as South Korea-US drills start

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test of strategic cruise missiles amid tensions with South Korea and the US.

Sounak Mukhopadhyay
First Published21 Aug 2023
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a strategic cruise missile test aboard a navy warship in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 21, 2023.     KCNA via REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a strategic cruise missile test aboard a navy warship in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 21, 2023. KCNA via REUTERS(KCNA via REUTERS)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reportedly overseen a test of strategic cruise missiles, a move coinciding with the commencement of the Ulchi Freedom Shield summer exercises by South Korea and the United States. The annual military drills, condemned by Pyongyang as a rehearsal for war, have escalated tensions in the region.

Kim's visit to a navy fleet on the east coast to inspect the missile test aboard a warship has been confirmed by state media KCNA. While specific details about the date of Kim's visit remain undisclosed, the launch aimed to enhance the ship's combat function and missile system features, Reuters reported.

Also Read: ‘Travis King wants refuge from racism in US’: North Korea

It was an effort to bolster the sailors' ability to carry out attack missions during real combat situations. The test's success was highlighted, with the ship reportedly hitting its target accurately.

South Korea and the United States have initiated the Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, which focus on joint responses to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. This year's exercises are notably the largest ever, involving tens of thousands of troops from both countries and other UN Command member states.

The recent missile test is part of North Korea's continuous trials of what it refers to as "strategic cruise missiles", dating back to 2021. Analysts have speculated that these missiles could potentially be armed with nuclear warheads. The country has also been active in modernizing its naval capabilities, showcasing a new nuclear-capable underwater attack drone earlier this year.

Also Read: North Korea's Kim Jong Un inspects weapons factories, urges enhanced production of strategic engines, shells

During his inspection aboard the warship, Kim expressed his commitment to reinforcing the navy's combat efficiency and modernizing its surface and underwater offensive and defensive capabilities. He stressed the importance of maintaining constant mobility and enhancing the navy's capability to perform effectively even in unfavourable circumstances.

(With Reuters inputs)

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