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Kim pleased with ‘firepower strike drill’

North Korean leader directly supervised 2nd launch in a week

Mar 11,2020
Right: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, watches a firepower strike drill by the North Korean army’s long-range artillery sub-units on Monday, in this photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency the next day. Left: A rocket is fired from a large multiple rocket launcher. [YONHAP]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Monday supervised a “firepower strike drill” involving long-range artillery for the second time in a week, state media announced Tuesday.

South Korea’s military on Monday said multiple short-range projectiles had been launched from Sondok-ri in South Hamgyong Province, which traveled around 200 kilometers (124 miles) before landing in the East Sea.

According to an English-language report by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the “purpose of the firepower strike drill was to inspect the sudden military counterattack capability of the long-range artillery units on the front.”

Kim delivered instructions to chief of the North Korean military’s General Staff, Pak Jong-chon, and watched the drill from an observation post, the report read.

As he did March 2, when the regime conducted its first major weapons test in over four months, Kim “expressed great satisfaction” with the results and “highly appreciated the perfect combat readiness” of frontline artillery units.

Photographs released by KCNA of the latest test featured a large artillery rocket with an estimated caliber of 600 millimeters (24 inches) being fired from a transporter erector launcher - identical to the weapon presented by state media after last week’s test.

The projectiles and the vehicle used to launch them are believed to be part of the same super-large multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) that the regime developed and tested on multiple occasions last year.

The weapon was tested on at least six separate occasions so far, in August, September, October and November last year and twice more this month.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Monday initially said the North fired “three projectiles” but later changed its wording to “multiple short-range projectiles” after noticing what seemed to be a fourth flying object. U.S. officials also noted that at least four projectiles had been fired, two of them possibly KN-09 and the others KN-25.

KN-09 is a code name given by Seoul and Washington to refer to North Korea’s multiple rocket launcher with a maximum range of around 200 kilometers, enough to hit South Korea’s Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters in South Chungcheong. KN-25, a “super-large” system, has an even longer demonstrated maximum range, at around 380 kilometers based on August’s test.

Seoul’s military noted last week that the March 2 test showed Pyongyang had made significant progress in improving such weapons, shortening the interval between each projectile launch. It took the MLRS from last week just 20 seconds to fire a second rocket after launching the first, an interval that was replicated on Monday between the first and second launches. The third launch, however, took an additional minute, according to the JCS.

North Korea also appears to have test-fired in Monday’s drill several of its 170-millimeter self-propelled Koksan guns, one of the regime’s main artillery pieces, which are capable of striking Seoul if deployed near the demilitarized zone. The Rodong Sinmun, a leading regime mouthpiece, published photographs of the guns being fired, along with another photograph of other types of multiple rocket launchers in action.

Pyongyang’s decision to conduct a second firepower drill a week after its first was anticipated somewhat given that the North’s Foreign Ministry had warned of “yet another momentous reaction” following international condemnation of last week’s test.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department called on North Korea to “avoid provocations, abide by obligations under [United Nations] Security Council Resolutions, and return to sustained and substantive negotiations to do its part to achieve complete denuclearization.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]


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