N Korea conducts new weapons tests; US, S Korea start drills

North Korea says allies’ military exercises are a rehearsal for war so its weapons are vital for defence.

North Korea has fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine in a show of force just hours before the United States and South Korea began their largest joint military exercises in five years.

The tests, reported by state media on Monday, came days after leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a series of weapons launches and ordered his soldiers to intensify efforts to repel its rivals’ “frantic war preparation moves”.


The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the missile launches showed Pyongyong’s resolve to respond with “overwhelming powerful forces” to so-called military manoeuvres by the “the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces”.

KCNA also implied that North Korea aims to arm the cruise missiles tested with nuclear warheads.

Pyongyang views military exercises between the US and South Korea as rehearsals for invasion and argues its nuclear weapons and missile programmes are necessary for self-defence.

The militaries of the US and South Korea began their ‘Freedom Shield’ exercises early on Monday, the first time such large-scale drills have been held since 2018 when they were suspended in support of renewed diplomatic efforts to secure North Korea’s denuclearisation.

The latest exercises include a computer simulation called Freedom Shield 23 and several combined field training exercises, collectively known as Warrior Shield FTX.

The drills are scheduled to continue for at least 10 days and will focus on the “changing security environment” amid North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats, according to the South Korean and US armed forces.

North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests in 2022 and adopted an increasingly aggressive nuclear doctrine.

But amid the bluster some analysts expressed caution.

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