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ConflictsNorth Korea

North Korea test-fires four strategic cruise missiles

February 23, 2023

The North's latest weapons test came as the US and South Korea held exercises in response to Pyongyang's nuclear threats.

A strategic cruise missile is launched during a drill
North Korea's missile tests have been punctuated by threats of preemptive nuclear attacks against South Korea or the United StatesImage: KCNA/REUTERS

North Korea launched four strategic cruise missiles to demonstrate "the war posture" of Pyongyang's "nuclear combat force," state media said Friday.

The missiles were fired toward the Sea of Japan, the Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported.

"The drill clearly demonstrated once again the war posture of the DPRK nuclear combat force bolstering up in every way its deadly nuclear counterattack capability against the hostile forces," it added, using the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea first tested a long-range cruise missile system in September 2021 and has since described those weapons as "strategic,'' wording that implies they are being developed with intent to arm them with nuclear warheads.

Thursday's test's came after North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday and then flew a pair of short-range missiles into sea off its eastern coast, also known as the Sea of Japan, on Monday

US and South Korea hold simulated exercise on North's nuclear threat

On Wednesday, the United States and South Korea held a "tabletop" exercise in Washington that focused on the possibility of North Korea using a nuclear weapon.

"Given the DPRK's recent aggressive nuclear policy and advancements in nuclear capabilities, the... scenario focused on the possibility of the DPRK's use of nuclear weapons," a joint statement said.

"Both sides affirmed that the alliance stands ready to respond to the DPRK's nuclear threats."

Three destroyers sail together during a defense drill between South Korea, Japan and the US.
South Korean, Japanese and US destroyers sail together during a drill in the international waters of the east coast of the Korean peninsular.Image: South Korea Defense Ministry/AP/picture alliance

At the same time, the US, South Korea, and Japan carried out naval drills in the Sea of Japan.

They focused on "sharing ballistic missile target information and mastering detection, tracking, and interception procedures," Seoul's defense ministry said in a statement.

The US and South Korea were planning further war games in the coming weeks. 

North Korea, for decades, has described the annual US-South Korea drills as rehearsals for a potential invasion, although the allies say their exercises are defensive in nature.

lo/ (AFP, AP, Reuters)