Pyongyang yesterday extended a provocative series of weapons tests by firing cruise missiles into the sea, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for his military to step up war preparations and toured a shipyard.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the US and South Korean militaries were analyzing the North Korean launches into its western sea.
South Korea’s military detected multiple missiles, but it did not immediately provide a specific number or an assessment of their flights, the joint chiefs said.
The launches, which were North Korea’s fourth round of cruise missile tests this year, came hours after state media reported that Kim reiterated his focus on strengthening his naval forces as he inspected unspecified naval projects at a shipyard in Nampho.
Kim in the past few months has emphasized efforts to build a nuclear-armed navy to counter what he portrays as growing external threats posed by the US, South Korea and Japan, which have stepped up their military cooperation in response to Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not specify when Kim visited Nampho.
It paraphrased Kim as saying that the strengthening of the navy “presents itself as the most important issue in reliably defending the maritime sovereignty of the country and stepping up the war preparations.”
KCNA did not specify the types of warships that are being built in Nampho, but said they were related to a five-year military development plan set during a ruling party congress in early 2021.
During those meetings, Kim revealed an extensive wish list of advanced military assets, which included nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear missiles that can be launched from underwater.
During the inspection, Kim was briefed on the progress of his naval projects and remaining technological challenges and ordered workers to “unconditionally” complete the efforts within the timeframe of the plan that runs through 2025, KCNA said.
South Korean Ministry of Unification spokeswoman Kim I-nae said that it was the first time the ministry was aware of that state media reported on Kim Jong-un conducting a military inspection in Nampho.
That could suggest an expansion of naval projects from the country’s eastern shipyard of Sinpo, which has been North Korea’s base for submarine construction.
Kim I-nae did not provide a specific answer when asked whether Seoul believes the North is using Nampho for its efforts to build nuclear-powered submarines.
“By making military threats routine, North Korea is trying to create a sense of insecurity among South Korean people to undermine trust in their government and to attract international attention to build an atmosphere in which its demands must be accepted to resolve the crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” she said.
South Korea’s army said that its special-operation troops yesterday completed 10 days of training with US Green Berets in a region near Seoul, in the allies’ latest combined military exercises.
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