Kim Jong Un Adds Train-Launched Missiles to Nuclear Arsenal
(Bloomberg) -- North Korea said its latest volley of ballistic missiles was test-fired from a train, suggesting that leader Kim Jong Un had added a new option for a quick strike against U.S. allies in the region.
The missiles were launched Wednesday from a “railway-borne missile system deployed for action for the first time,” said the official Korean Central News Agency, with photos of at least one launch splashed on the front page of the country’s biggest newspaper. North Korea’s test of two short-range ballistic missiles Wednesday -- a provocation banned under United Nations resolutions -- was its first since March, and prompted an emergency UN Security Council session hours later.
North Korea has been building up its capabilities to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear warheads and deliver tactical strikes against South Korea and Japan, which host tens of thousands of American troops. The new train-based launch platform “increases the war deterrence of the country,” KCNA said, citing top ruling party official Pak Jong Chon.
The train launch was probably intended as a response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who observed his own government’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile Wednesday, said Cheon Seong-whun, a former security strategy secretary of South Korea’s presidential Blue House.
“North Korea may have wanted to respond to South Korea’s SLBM development,” said Cheon Seong-whun, a former security strategy secretary of South Korea’s presidential Blue House. “Kim Jong Un has long emphasized the importance of military modernization and this so-called train-launched missile test falls under that category.”
Moon observed the missile fired from a sub while underwater, making South Korea the eighth country to demonstrate the technology. The South Korean missile appeared to be a variant of its Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a range of about 500 kilometers (310 miles), according to the Yonhap News Agency.
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North Korea often tries to time its tests for maximum political effect. Besides the South Korean launch, Biden’s nuclear envoy held talks in Tokyo on Tuesday and China’s foreign minister visited Seoul on Wednesday.
Kim Yo Jong -- the leader’s sister and the face of his pressure campaign against Seoul -- lambasted Moon for saber-rattling while trying to pursue talks between the neighbors. “If even the ‘president’ supports the act of faulting and hurting the dialogue partner, it will naturally result in a corresponding action and then the north-south relations will end up in a total deadlock,” she said Wednesday, according to a KCNA report.
North Korea fired the two ballistic missiles were fired from a central part of the country into waters off the eastern coast of the peninsula Wednesday afternoon, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. They were launched about five minutes apart and flew for about 800 kilometers (500 miles), it said. That range indicates they could hit all of South Korea and some parts of Japan.
Over the past few years, Kim has modernized his arsenal by adding new solid-fuel ballistic missiles that are easier to hide and quicker to deploy, giving the U.S. and its allies less time to implement counter-measures. North Korea added to the mix when it launched what it said were long-range cruise missiles over the weekend that flew for about 1,500 kms, which could hit almost all of Japan.
The cruise missiles are far slower than a ballistic missile but they are designed to fly under the radar and be maneuverable, which would add another way for it to strike Japan and South Korea with nuclear warheads.
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