Seoul skeptical of North Korea’s long-range cruise missile claims
Stars and Stripes February 24, 2023
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — South Korea’s military on Friday questioned North Korea’s claim that it successfully fired four long-range cruise missiles the previous day while Seoul and Washington conducted joint training exercises.
“There is a difference” in North Korea’s claims and what South Korea and the United States determined through surveillance and reconnaissance assets, the Ministry of National Defense said in a news release.
The ministry provided no additional details in its release but said the U.S and South Korea were still analyzing the North’s purported launches.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Friday that North Korea’s military “successfully” launched four cruise missiles from North Hamgyong province in the northeastern region of the country toward the Sea of Japan, or East Sea, on Thursday.
The drill “reconfirmed the reliability of the weapon system,” which “precisely hit the preset target,” according to KCNA.
North Korea’s claims about its missile capabilities have previously been cast in doubt.
South Korean authorities questioned the communist regime’s March 24 claim that it launched a newer, Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile and said the weapon was more likely the older, shorter-range Hwasong-15.
The purported launches on Friday coincided with military exercises by South Korea and its U.S. ally.
On Wednesday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry conducted a missile-defense exercise with South Korean destroyer ROKS Sejong the Great and Japanese guided-missile destroyer JS Atago in the Sea of Japan, according to a news release from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
The trilateral exercise “enhances the interoperability of our collective forces and demonstrates the strength of the trilateral relationship with our Japan and [South Korean] allies,” the command said. Interoperability is a term the military uses to describe the ability of one country’s armed forces to use another country’s training methods and military equipment.
Also on Wednesday, a military delegation from the U.S. and South Korea at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., held a tabletop exercise addressing their ability to deter or respond to North Korea’s “evolving nuclear and missile capabilities,” according to a Defense Department news release.
The Pentagon exercise focused on potential responses to North Korea using a nuclear weapon.
Any nuclear attack by North Korea “against the United States or its allies and partners is unacceptable and will result in the end of that regime,” according to the DOD release.
U.S. and South Korean officials last year assessed that the North was prepared to conduct its seventh nuclear test, its first since 2017.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Friday described the allies’ joint exercises as “a nuclear war demonstration against” the North, according to a statement through KCNA.
The U.S. is “constantly threatening the security environment on the Korean Peninsula” and is “trying to unilaterally deny [North Korea’s] right to self-defense while attempting to tighten” its alliances,” KCNA reported.