North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen a strategic cruise missile test as South Korea and the United States began annual military drills that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal of war.The test took place as Kim visited a naval unit on the east coast, state-run news agency KCNA reported on Monday, where he was pictured standing on the deck of a vessel surrounded by officers. Another photo showed Kim on the quay watching a missile being fired.
KCNA did not specify the date of the trip or elaborate on the missiles themselves.The launch was aimed at verifying the “combat function of the ship and the feature of its missile system,” while improving the sailors’ capability to carry out an “attack mission in actual war,”, KCNA said.
“The ship rapidly hit target without even an error,” it said.Kim touted the ship for maintaining “high mobility and mighty striking power and constant preparedness for combat to cope with sudden situations”, KCNA added.
The state media report came hours before South Korea and the United States began the Ulchi Freedom Shield military exercises, which involve tens of thousands of troops from the two countries and are designed to enhance their joint responses to North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats.
Pyongyang has condemned the drills, which continue until August 31, as a rehearsal for war and has warned repeatedly of “overwhelming” action in response.South Korea’s military has said this year’s exercises will be held on the “largest scale ever”, and also include some member states of the United Nations Command.
Speaking on Momday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the drills would be conducted under several contingency scenarios, including cyber, terror and drone attacks, and a disinformation campaign from the North.“True peace is preserved only by overwhelming force, not by one-sided begging or goodwill,” Yoon told a meeting of the National Security Council. “North Korea talks about preemptive nuclear strikes and preparations for an offensive war, but we will immediately and overwhelmingly retaliate for any provocations.”