North Korea fires suspected cruise missiles after US drills

The North Korea fired four land-to-ship missiles off its east coast which flew about 200km ( 124 miles) on early Thursday.

Analyst Kim Dong-yub at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies said the projectiles, which showed longer range than North Korea's previously known KN-01 anti-ship cruise missiles, were likely from a new cruise missile system the North displayed during a massive April 15 military parade.

Last weekend, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said North Korea's nuclear weapons program was a "threat to all" and called on China, Pyongyang's main ally, to take firmer action in reigning it in.

North Korea has conducted three ballistic missile tests since Moon took office, maintaining its accelerated pace of missile and nuclear-related activities since the beginning of a year ago in defiance of United Nations sanctions and US pressure. These demands include the removal of almost 30,000 US troops in South Korea meant to check North Korean aggression.

North Korea's continuation of weapons tests have rattled Washington and the North's neighbours as Pyongyang seeks to build a nuclear missile capable of reaching the United States, South Korea's military added.

The launches of the apparent anti-ship missiles on Thursday follow Kim's order to develop North Korea's own ballistic missile that precisely strikes targets such as enemy vessels, reported in its state media late last month.

North Korea 's state-run television KRT broadcast a video of Kim inspecting a competition involving the air force.

His testimony also comes a week after the first-ever successful test of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system against an intercontinental-range ballistic missile-class (ICBM) target. They landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, where USA aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan participated in joint exercises with the South Korean navy that ended earlier this week. The elements will stay in place, South Korea said. North Korea is expected to flight test its first ICBM in the coming years and eventually threaten the USA homeland with the capability.

South Korea said last week four more launchers had been introduced, months after the controversial battery was deployed in March with just two of its maximum load of six launchers.

The South's army came under fire this week after Moon - who voiced ambivalence about THAAD on the campaign trail - accused it of withholding key information about the progress of the system.

"North Korea likely wanted to show off its ability to precisely target a large warship, in relation to the joint military drills involving US aircraft carriers", Roh Jae-cheon, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman told a media briefing. He warned that North Korea could only face further global isolation and more economic difficulties.

The other two would be sent home, as they had requested, the ministry official said.

  • Zachary Reyes