Kim Jong Un Observes Naval Drill Amid US-South Korea Military Exercises
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test-firing of strategic cruise missiles in a recent naval drill, as tensions rise amid the start of major annual military exercises conducted by the United States and South Korea. These exercises are seen by North Korea as an invasion rehearsal.
The missile tests were reported by North Korea’s state media just three days after the leaders of the US, South Korea, and Japan held their first trilateral summit. During an inspection visit at an undisclosed date, Kim boarded a patrol ship to review its weaponry and combat readiness. He observed a drill where the ship’s seamen launched “strategic” cruise missiles, suggesting that these weapons were designed to carry nuclear warheads.
A photo released by state media shows Kim watching the missile launch from a different location, rather than from the vessel itself. The Korean Central News Agency stated that the missiles successfully hit their designated targets, proving the ship’s readiness and attack capability.
Kim expressed his determination to strengthen the North Korean navy by emphasizing the development of powerful warships and the modernization of shipboard and underwater weapons systems. He emphasized the importance of building “overwhelming ideological and spiritual strength” among the country’s sailors, highlighting its significance over numerical or technical superiority.
In response to North Korea’s report, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff released a statement stating that the contents of North Korea’s cruise missile tests were exaggerated and inconsistent with the facts. They assured that South Korea’s military will maintain a firm readiness to overwhelmingly defeat any potential provocations from North Korea.
Considering the tense dynamics in the region, it was widely anticipated that North Korea would resume weapons tests in response to the ongoing US-South Korea military training that began on Monday and is scheduled for an 11-day run.
Ulchi Freedom Shield Training and Major U.S.-South Korean Military Exercises
The Ulchi Freedom Shield training is a computer-simulated command post exercise conducted by the U.S. and South Korean militaries. In addition to this, both countries have also planned to carry out large-scale field exercises.
In the past, North Korea has criticized U.S.-South Korean drills, considering them as preparation for an invasion. In response, they have conducted missile tests. However, U.S. and South Korean officials have consistently emphasized that these exercises are purely defensive in nature, with no intention of attacking North Korea.
Notably, since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has conducted over 100 weapons tests, including nuclear-capable ballistic missile tests targeting the U.S., South Korea, and Japan. Consequently, the U.S. and South Korea have been actively expanding their regular training exercises as a response to these actions.
Trilateral Cooperation and Measures Against North Korean Threats
During the Camp David summit, President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced their intention to establish a real-time missile warning data sharing system on North Korea by the end of the year. Additionally, they plan to conduct annual trilateral exercises.
To further bolster their efforts in countering North Korean cyber threats and its evasion of sanctions, the three leaders also announced the establishment of a trilateral working group. Furthermore, they discussed establishing a hotline dedicated to discussing responses to security threats.
However, it is worth noting that North Korea perceives the strengthened security cooperation among the three countries as a reason to enhance its own military capability.
North Korea’s Missile Launches and Spy Satellite Attempt
South Korea’s spy service revealed to lawmakers that North Korea is currently taking necessary steps for launching long-range missiles and attempting to place a spy satellite into orbit. It is important to highlight that a previous attempt to launch a spy satellite by North Korea in late May ended in failure when the rocket carrying the satellite plunged into the ocean soon after liftoff.