North Korea Stages Yet Another Ballistic Missile Launch as U.S. and South Korea Conduct Combined Naval Exercise

Kim Jong Un is at it again. According to South Korea’s military, North Korea launched two more short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Monday. This is hardly a novel endeavor by North Korea. As RedState reported, the hermit kingdom launched a ballistic missile in November, shortly after threatening a “fiercer” military response to the United States and its increasing cooperation with South Korea and Japan.

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And earlier in March, as we also reported:

North Korea responded to the announcement of upcoming joint U.S.-South Korea military drills by simulating an attack on an unspecified South Korean airfield, firing at least six rockets in a live-fire exercise overseen by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korean state-run media reported the news in its typical fawning, stilted manner:

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, gave field guidance to the Hwasong artillery unit charged with important operational task of the Korean People’s Army on the western front on March 9 and watched a fire assault drill.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un was greeted by commanding officers of the unit on the spot.

He highly appreciated that all the service personnel are intensifying their combat and political training in a stand-by posture with high class consciousness, transparent will to deal with the enemy and resolute viewpoint on struggle and steadily perfecting their operational capability to successfully carry out their important military task.

Per Reuters, the launch is in response to the combined naval exercise being staged by the U.S. and South Korea, in part, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the two countries.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Monday, South Korea’s military said, just as a U.S. aircraft carrier staged combined naval exercises with South Korea in a warning to Pyongyang.

The missiles flew about 370 km (230 miles) after being launched from North Hwanghae province at 7:47 a.m. (2247 GMT on Sunday), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The North’s latest launch came as a U.S. carrier strike group led by USS Nimitz joined military exercises with South Korea in international waters off the southern island of Jeju.

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A Reuters graphic shows the marked increase in missile launches under Kim Jong Un’s reign:

NK Ballistic Missile Tests (Credit: Reuters Graphics)

In recent weeks, North Korea has been further ramping up its efforts:

firing multiple cruise missiles to practice tactical nuclear attacks, and testing what it called a nuclear-capable underwater attack drone.

That attack drone test came on Friday, with Kim Jong Un demanding that the joint military drills be halted.

During the test, the new North Korean drone cruised underwater at a depth of 80 to 150 metres (260-500 feet) for over 59 hours and detonated a non-nuclear payload in waters off its east coast on Thursday, North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

Analysts say North Korea is showing off its increasingly diverse nuclear threats to Washington and Seoul, though they are sceptical whether the underwater vehicle is ready for deployment.

South Korea and Japan have condemned the launches. And Rear Admiral Christopher Sweeney, strike group commander, confirmed the U.S is well aware of North Korea’s activities, noting:

“It’s important for us to be able to integrate with our navy allies and share information and our interoperability, because we don’t like to be coerced – I don’t think anyone likes a bully,” Sweeney told reporters from the carrier.

When asked about growing calls in South Korea for permanently deploying American strategic assets, he said: “The United States has deployable strategic assets at the ready on every day and we can continue to deploy those assets.”

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In other words, they are not overly impressed with the North Koreans’ saber rattling. Still, as the combined exercises continue this week, the situation bears keeping an eye on.

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