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Kim Jong Un supervises cruise missile test amidst S. Korea-US military drills commencement

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has directed a significant cruise missile trial as South Korea and the United States initiate their annual joint military exercises, an event that Pyongyang perceives as a practice for armed conflict.

The missile trial was conducted while Kim visited a naval base on the east coast, as per the state-operated KCNA news agency’s report on Monday. The leader was photographed on the ship’s deck surrounded by officers and observing a missile launch from the quay.

The exact date of Kim’s visit and specific missile details were not provided by KCNA. The missile launch aimed to verify the ship’s combat capability and its missile system’s features, as well as enhance the sailors’ skills for potential attack missions during real warfare. KCNA reported that the missile struck its target accurately and swiftly, highlighting the vessel’s mobility, formidable striking power, and constant readiness to tackle sudden contingencies.

“The state media release coincided with the initiation of the Ulchi Freedom Shield military drills by South Korea and the United States. These exercises, extending until August 31, involve tens of thousands of troops from both countries and are designed to bolster their collective response to North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats. North Korea has condemned these drills as war rehearsals and has repeatedly cautioned against “overwhelming” retaliatory action”.

“South Korea’s military has declared this year’s exercises as the most extensive ever, involving member states of the United Nations Command. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol stated that the drills would encompass various hypothetical scenarios, including cyberattacks, terrorism, drone assaults, and disinformation campaigns from North Korea. President Yoon emphasized the preservation of true peace through substantial force, rather than mere one-sided appeals or goodwill gestures”.

“Suspected North Korean hackers have reportedly targeted the exercises through email attacks on South Korean contractors associated with the combined exercise war simulation center. Furthermore, South Korean lawmakers warned of potential provocative actions by North Korea, such as firing an intercontinental ballistic missile, in protest against the drills or the unprecedented summit among leaders of South Korea, the US, and Japan”.

“North Korea has persistently conducted trials of what it terms “strategic cruise missiles” since late 2021, with some analysts suggesting that these missiles could be equipped with nuclear warheads. In March, North Korea unveiled a new nuclear-capable underwater attack drone as part of its ongoing efforts to modernize its military arsenal”.

“While on board the ship, Kim pledged to enhance the navy’s capabilities, both offensive and defensive, with modern technology for surface and underwater warfare. He stressed the importance of maintaining constant mobility and increasing readiness for combat missions under unfavorable conditions”.

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