Pyongyang has broken with much of its inter-Korean policy in recent years and ramped up weapons testing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen live-fire drills involving “newly-equipped super-large” multiple rocket launchers, a day after South Korea and Japan reported the country’s launch of several short-range ballistic missiles, its first such test in about two months.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the drills were aimed at testing the “real war capabilities” of 600-millimetre (23 inches) multiple rocket launchers.

The exercises also involved simulating an aerial explosion of a shell at a predetermined altitude above the target, KCNA said.

“They fully demonstrated their excellent crack-shot artillery marksmanship and prompt and thorough combat readiness,” KCNA said.

Kim, who has overseen multiple tests in recent years as he pursues his plan to modernise North Korea’s military, said the rocket launchers would provide the “core central striking means” in war preparations.

“The destructive offensive means possessed by our army should more thoroughly fulfil their missions to block and suppress the possibility of war with the constant perfect preparedness to collapse the capital of the enemy and the structure of its military forces,” Kim told the troops, according to KCNA.

Seoul’s military announced on Monday it had detected the launch of “multiple short-range ballistic missiles” from North Korea.

The super-large multiple rocket launcher, referred to as KN-25 by Seoul and Washington, is a short-range ballistic missile, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

Kim Jong Un punches the air as he watches a screen. A military officer with him appears to be clapping his hands in excitement. Both are smiling.
Kim watched the proceedings on a screen and appeared delighted with the outcome [KCNA via KNS and AFP]

North Korea is banned from testing ballistic missiles under long-running sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

“The Kim regime’s one-upmanship aims to show strength to its domestic audience, suggest costs on the Korean Peninsula for Seoul’s international security cooperation, and warn Washington against increasing pressure on Pyongyang,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, wrote in emailed comments about the latest tests.

Images published in state media showed Kim, dressed in a black leather jacket, watching the rocket launcher drills with his generals. In one picture, he looked like he was cheering as he celebrated the tests’ apparent success by punching the air with his fist.

Pyongyang has broken with much of its inter-Korean policy in recent years, scrapping a military pact with its neighbour and declaring South Korea a hostile enemy state. It has also ramped up weapons testing, launched a submarine and put its first spy satellite into space.

Kim has also stepped up his rhetoric, talking about war preparations and readiness.

When asked about the threat posed by the multiple rocket launchers, Seoul’s defence minister, Shin Won-sik, said that if Pyongyang fires a large number of conventional missiles against South Korea, it would “constitute a war” and prompt strong retaliatory attacks.

Monday’s ballistic missile test was North Korea’s second this year after Pyongyang launched one it said was tipped with a manoeuvrable hypersonic warhead on January 14.



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