SOUTH KOREA, SEOUL: Days after leader Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to be ready to repel rivals’ “frantic war preparation moves,” North Korea announced Monday that it had conducted submarine-launched cruise missile tests.
North Korea conducted the test on Sunday, one day before the start of massive joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, which are seen by Pyongyang as practice for an invasion.


According to the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official news outlet, the missile launches demonstrated the country’s commitment to respond with “overwhelming powerful forces” to the increasing military maneuvers by “the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces” on Monday.

KCNA also implied that the North planned to install nuclear warheads on the cruise missiles it tested.

It claimed that the missiles flew for over two hours, leaving figure-eight patterns in the water 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) off the country’s eastern coast. North Korea has conducted all of its known submarine-launched ballistic missile tests since 2016 from the 8.24 Yongung ship, KCNA reported.

Since North Korea last October test-fired a weapon from a silo under an inland reservoir, Sunday’s actions were the first underwater-launched missile tests. In May of 2017, the country conducted a successful test launch of a short-range ballistic missile from the same vessel.

With the ability to launch retaliatory attacks, North Korea would be in a stronger position if it possessed submarine-launched missile systems. Submarines that can move stealthily through the water and reliably carry out attacks, according to experts, would require a great deal of time, money, and technological advancements from the heavily sanctioned nation.

North Korea, which set a new annual high in missile tests in 2018, has conducted multiple more tests since the new year began. In addition to the missiles launched on Sunday, North Korea has previously tested an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to reach the continental United States, short-range nuclear-capable missiles aimed at South Korea, and other weapons.

According to experts, Kim is trying to pressure the United States into recognizing North Korea as a legitimate nuclear power and relaxing international economic sanctions because he views his nuclear arsenal as his best security guarantee.

On Monday morning, South Korean officials said that their country’s military had detected a submarine’s launch near the North Korean city of Sinpo, which is located in the country’s eastern port region. Sinpo is home to a sizable submarine shipyard.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea have stated that intelligence agencies in both South Korea and the United States are currently analyzing the operation’s specifics.
Although the United States and South Korea insist their regular military drills are defensive, North Korea views them as a major threat to its security. North Korea, according to these observers, uses rival drills as an excuse to test weapons and modernize its nuclear arsenal in order to gain leverage in its relations with the United States.
Last week on Thursday, Kim oversaw a drill where real artillery fire was used to simulate an attack on a South Korean airfield. According to KCNA, he gave orders for his military to keep the ability to “overwhelmingly respond” to any attacks.

On Sunday, the news agency reported that Kim called a military meeting to discuss “more effective, powerful, and offensive use of the war deterrent” in response to recent moves by the United States and South Korea.

The United States and South Korea have scheduled joint military exercises to last until March 23. Two of these are the computer simulation Freedom Shield 23 and the series of combined field training exercises known as the Warrior Shield FTX.

South Korean and American military officials say the simulation’s goal is to improve the alliance’s defense and response capabilities in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea and other factors affecting global security.

According to the armed forces, the last major field training exercise, codenamed “Foal Eagle,” was conducted in 2018.
Due to diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea and fears of a COVID-19 pandemic, the United States and South Korea have canceled or reduced some drills in recent years. After North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests in 2022 and adopted an increasingly aggressive nuclear doctrine, the two countries once again increased exercises.

For air drills with South Korean fighter planes, the United States has recently deployed heavy, long-range bombers. The South Korean Ministry of Defense claimed the deployment proved the United States’ willingness to use all available military options, including nuclear weapons, to protect its Asian ally in the event of a full-scale war with North Korea.