(Seoul) North Korea fired cruise missiles Tuesday off its west coast, according to Seoul, the latest launch in a series of weapons tests that analysts believe may be aimed at Russia, at war against Ukraine.
Seoul “detected several cruise missiles (…) launched into the West Sea (also called the Yellow Sea, Editor’s note) around 7 a.m.” local time (5 p.m. Eastern time Monday), the general staff said South Korean joint forces in a statement.
The intelligence agencies of Washington and Seoul “are currently conducting a detailed analysis” of these shots, added this source.
Relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have deteriorated sharply in recent months, and the North has stepped up military equipment tests this year, including testing what it described as an “undersea nuclear weapons system” and a missile. solid-fuel hypersonic ballistics.
Tests of cruise missiles, which fly in the atmosphere, do not fall under the sanctions imposed by the UN on North Korea, unlike ballistic missiles, whose trajectory is mainly in space.
Reconciliation with Moscow
South Korea and the United States maintain that despite UN sanctions, the North is sending weapons to Russia, possibly in exchange for technical assistance with its spy satellite program.
“It is believed that North Korea has begun mass production of cruise missiles ordered by Russia,” Ahn Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who heads the Global Institute for Korea Studies, told AFP North.
“It seems that they are conducting (…) experiments at sea” on these projectiles, adds Mr. Ahn.
Hong Min, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said that we cannot “exclude the possibility” that Pyongyang is conducting test-firing of cruise missiles intended to be exported to Russia.
“Cruise missiles play an important role for Russia in targeting strategic infrastructure in Ukraine,” he observed for AFP.
Mr. Kim traveled to Russia in September to meet President Vladimir Putin at a cosmodrome. The Russian head of state expressed his desire to visit Pyongyang “soon”.
In November, North Korea managed to place a spy satellite in orbit.
In a statement released in December, Seoul’s intelligence agency said it expected Pyongyang to engage in military and cyber provocations in 2024 to target election campaigns in the United States and Korea. from South.
According to the same source, the North Korean number one asked his collaborators at the end of 2023 to “develop measures to cause great excitement in South Korea” at the beginning of 2024.
In recent weeks, Kim Jong-un has designated the South as his country’s “main enemy”, dissolved government agencies dedicated to reunification and contacts with the South, and threatened to declare war if his neighbor encroaches on his territory “even if only by 0.001 mm”.
Mr. Kim also said that Pyongyang no longer recognized the Northern Boundary Line, the de facto maritime border between the North and the South, and called for constitutional changes to allow the North to “occupy” Seoul in due course. of war, according to KCNA. According to him, an armed conflict could “erupt at any time”.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, for his part, argued with his government that in the event of provocation from Pyongyang, South Korea would launch a response “several times stronger”, highlighting the “capabilities of overwhelming response” from his army.
But for Thae Yong-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected to the South, Mr. Kim is probably not trying to provoke a war, given, he argues, that Pyongyang is selling a “significant number” of its arms to Russia for its war in Ukraine.
“If Kim Jong-un intends to start a war this year, does it make sense for him to send a significant amount (of weapons) to Russia in containers? “, asked Mr. Thae in an interview with the Chosun Daily media, adding that the North was acting as a deterrent towards Washington and Seoul by “giving the impression of imminent action” on a large scale.