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N. Korea launches cruise missiles to carry nuclear weapons

N. Korea launches cruise missiles to carry nuclear weapons

Posted February. 25, 2023 07:49,   

Updated February. 25, 2023 07:49


North Korea claimed on Friday that it had test-fired four strategic cruise missiles, the Hwasal-2, early Thursday morning. Regarding the missile launch, North Korea clarified that the purpose of its provocation was to “diversify means of delivering nuclear weapons” by stating that it was “an important component of the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent.” In regards to North Korea’s announcement that day, the South Korean military said, “There is a difference between what South Korea and the U.S. reconnaissance assets identified.” The South Korean military is weighing on the possibility that North Korea is waging a “deception tactic” to escalate military tensions by falsely claiming provocations raised by South Korea. However, cruise missiles are more difficult to detect and track than ballistic missiles.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's state media, claimed on the same day, “Strategic cruise missiles (launched from the Kimchaek City area of North Hamkyong Province) have simulated oval and figure ‘8’-shaped flight trajectories with a distance of 2,000 kilometers mooring line set in the East Sea where it hit the target after flying for 10,208 seconds (2 hours 50 minutes 8 seconds) to 10,224 seconds (2 hours 50 minutes 24 seconds).” It said that it even conducted performance tests by flying a distance of 2000 kilometers each and drew oval and figure-eight patterns above the sea above the launch target. The “2,000 kilometers” announced by North Korea is a distance that is capable of striking not only the Korean peninsula but also the entire U.S. military base in Japan, where many U.S. strategic assets such as the F-22 stealth fighter are deployed.

The KCNA also said that with this missile launch, it inspected and assessed the rapid response posture of the strategic cruise missile forces. This suggests that the cruise missile forces have been established and deployed. Long-range cruise missiles are considered a threatening weapon system because they can stealthily fly at ultra-low altitudes and destroy targets when surprise launches are made.

The launch by North Korea was reported to have gone undetected by ROK and U.S. reconnaissance assets. An official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “Even at the time North Korea claimed, ROK and U.S. reconnaissance assets were keeping a close eye on the area. We are analyzing various possibilities, including the authenticity of North Korea’s claims.” A high-ranking military official said in a phone call with The Dong-A Ilbo, “It is highly unlikely that North Korea fired missiles on Thursday.” In other words, North Korea made false claims.

However, it is possible that the South Korean military could not detect them due to the nature of cruise missiles that evade interception radar by changing their flight path at ultra-low altitudes. Unlike ballistic missiles, which soar at an altitude of several tens of kilometers after launch and are immediately detected by satellites and radars, cruise missiles fly at ultra-low altitudes of several tens of meters, making detection and tracking difficult. Cruise missiles can also hit targets much more accurately than these ballistic missiles. For this reason, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-gyeom gave a command at closed key commanders meeting on Jan. 27 to prepare countermeasures for North Korea's cruise missiles in the near future.

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