North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun published images Wednesday verifying that communist dictator Kim Jong-un had overseen the launch of “new-type tactical guided missiles” the day before, weapons he said were an “adequate warning” to America and South Korea not to attack the country.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry condemned the two rival countries this week for staging joint military exercises necessary for military preparedness, demanding Seoul and Washington cancel all drills.
South Korea confirmed this weekend that a series of exercises were underway, for the first time led by a South Korean general. North and South Korea – and China and America, respectively – are technically still at war since the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. Hostilities ended with a 1953 armistice agreement, but neither side signed a peace treaty.
The lack of a peace treaty is what has kept American forces in South Korea for decades, conducting drills to ensure preparedness in the event that the war resumes at any moment. North Korea, too, uses the war as its reasoning for insisting on illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development. It did so again on Wednesday.
Confirming that Kim led the testing of “new-type tactical guided missiles at daybreak Tuesday,” Rodong Sinmun claimed that the missiles “precisely hit the targeted islet in the East Sea of Korea,” the name used in both Koreas for the Sea of Japan. South Korean military experts who confirmed the missile testing before the communist government’s announcement said the missile actually crashed into the sea.
“The demonstration fire clearly verified the reliability, security and actual war capacity of the new-type tactical guided weapon system,” the North Korean newspaper claimed. “Highly appreciating that the demonstration fire was carried out satisfactorily as intended, Kim Jong Un noted that the said military action would be an occasion to send an adequate warning to the joint military drill now underway by the U.S. and south Korean authorities.”
North Korean state publications do not capitalize the name of South Korea because the regime does not recognize the country’s sovereignty, claiming all of South Korea as a rogue province.
Rodong Sinmun published photos of Kim with high-ranking North Korean military officials laughing and cheering on the missiles.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) told reporters in Seoul Tuesday that the missiles tested flew about 280 miles before crashing into the waters of the Sea of Japan. The South Korean news service Yonhap cited “intelligence authorities” from both South Korea and the United States as saying they believe the missiles are a variation on the Russian Iskander model.
Studying the four missile launches of the past few weeks, the North Korean observer site 38 North concludes that North Korea’s claims it is developing new missiles appear to be true.
Responding to earlier missile launches on Friday, President Donald Trump suggested that the missiles could indeed violate United Nations sanctions, but as they do not appear to violate U.S.-specific sanctions, he is not yet concerned.
“There may be a United Nations violation, but Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain,” Trump said on Twitter. “Also, there is far too much to lose. I may be wrong, but I believe that Kim has a great and beautiful vision for his country, and only the United States, with me as President, can make that vision come true.”
Kim and Trump most recently met in June at a border village in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border between the two Koreas. Trump became the first president in American history to step into North Korea on that occasion.
Despite Trump’s words, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry insisted on Tuesday that it would continue to develop weapons specifically to intimidate America, noting that Trump had not canceled military exercises with South Korea despite words that some criticized as overly kind to Kim.
“Despite our repeated warnings, the United States and south Korean authorities have finally started the joint military exercise targeting the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said. “This is an undisguised denial and a flagrant violation of June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, Panmunjom Declaration and September Pyongyang Joint Declaration, all of which are agreements to establish new DPRK-U.S. relations and build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula.”