Missile launch hyped by North

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Missile launch hyped by North

Pyongyang declared yesterday it had successfully launched a newly developed tactical guided missile, which the regime hailed as a breakthrough in defense technology.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un guided the test-fire of the cutting-edge, ultra-precision missiles. Pyongyang said that the test launch “opened the prospect for maximizing their striking accuracy and power” on a worldwide “ultra-precision basis.”

With its usual hyperbole attacking Washington and Seoul, the KNCA said that the test marked a “significant event” in bolstering its “capability for self-defense.”

A day before the report, North Korea fired three short-range projectiles around 5 p.m. into the waters off its eastern coast, according to the South Korean Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The testing of the newly developed tactical guided missile was presumed to be a reference by Pyongyang to the launch of the missiles on Thursday.

Officials said that the projectiles were fired from an unnamed location in Wonsan, Kangwon Province, on the North’s east coast, and flew about 190 kilometers before landing into the East Sea. No casualties were reported.

South Korean military officials said the new tactical guided missile announced by Pyongyang appeared to be projectiles of the 300-millimeter KN-09 multiple-rocket launcher. The KN-09 had a range of about 150 kilometers (93 miles) in previous launches by North Korea, including those in March.

The recent test-firing could indicate that the range of the KN-09 launcher has increased by nearly 40 kilometers, putting South Korean military bases under greater threat.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing yesterday that North Korea “appears to be improving the performance of its large-caliber multiple rocket launchers.”

He said the 300-millimeter multiple-rocket launchers were first developed in Russia or China and that they currently appear to possess guidance capabilities. “Our army has been closely observing the trends of North Korea’s development of a new tactical guided missile,” said an official from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Marie Harf, the deputy spokesperson for the State Department, said Washington “is monitoring the situation … [and] still evaluating the available information to identify the exact type of projectile that may have been launched.”

Another U.S. defense official, however, was quick to dismiss North Korea’s claims. The source told CNN on the condition of anonymity yesterday that there is “no indication of new North Korean technology,” and brushed off Pyongyang’s claim it was testing newly developed missiles.

This appears to be the first time the North has publicly referred to a newly developed tactical guided missile.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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