North Korea test fires 2 short-range ‘tactical-guided missiles’ — Radio Free Asia

North Korea conducted its fourth missile test this month on Monday when its military fired two short-range ballistic missiles at an island about 236 miles northeast of the capital Pyongyang.

Experts said the missiles were likely to be armed with conventional, non-nuclear warheads in an attack, but their firing would likely increase tensions in the region as both U.S. and South Korean governments promptly criticized North Korea’s recent action.

The state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported that the two “tactical-guided missiles” hit their targets. Experts said these missiles were more accurate than other missiles that North Korea recently tested. Based on photos in the newspaper, the fired missiles resembled KN-24, which Pyongyang tested on several occasions in 2019 and 2020.

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense has said the KN-24 missile is similar to the US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and is designed to avoid missile defense systems and perform precision attacks.

Monday’s test followed a test of two ballistic missiles on Friday, which came after North Korea warned of a “stronger and safer response” if Washington were to approve more sanctions in response to the test Pyongyang conducted days before.

The Pentagon was unable to confirm that the missile was a KN-24 or another missile similar to ATACMS, Press Secretary John Kirby said in a news briefing Tuesday.

“We have rated them as ballistic missiles and we are still trapping it,” Kirby said.

When asked if the United States downplayed the missile launches because they do not pose a threat to the American mainland, Kirby confirmed Washington’s commitment to defend South Korea.

“As an administration, we have condemned these missile launches and called them out for what they are, clear violations of various UN Security Council resolutions and dangerous to the region, certainly dangerous to our allies and partners, and we take it very seriously,” Kirby said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, through spokesman Stéphane Dujarric on Monday, has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution, referring to North Korea with its acronym.

“There have not been so many periods, I think, in recent times where we have seen so many launches from the DPRK,” Dujarric said. “And for us, it’s just another reminder of the need for the DPRK, and all parties involved to get involved, to engage in diplomatic negotiations so that we can get what the UN wants to see, which is a very verifiable atomization. of the Korean Peninsula and, in the more immediate term, a lowering of tensions. “

Nevertheless, the missile tests are a “direct and serious military threat,” said Boo Seung Chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

South Korea’s main opposition party, the People Power Party, issued a statement condemning North Korea’s many missile provocations and urging the ruling party to do the same.

Several US-based analysts told RFA’s Korean Service that the KN-24 missiles were probably only conventional systems for North Korea. Joshua Pollack, a senior researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California, noted that KN-24 and KN-23 before it were introduced as “tactical weapons.”

“[That implies] that they would only be intended to carry conventional warheads. But that image was muddy in January 2021, when Kim Jong Un introduced the topic of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons, “Pollack told RFA.

“For now, at least, I think they are intended to be conventional precision-assault weapons. They appear to be North Korea’s response to similar missiles developed in South Korea in previous years,” he said.

Bruce Bechtol Jr., a professor of political science at Angelo State University, agreed that weapons were unlikely to be used to supply nuclear warheads.

“My best guess would be that it is likely to be used as a tactical support system for ground maneuvering forces in any conflict,” Bechtol said.

“It would probably be more of a conventional warhead … because in a combat situation, land forces want to take and hold ground. So if they put a nuclear warhead on that thing, they will not be able to hold the ground because it will be polluted. ,” he said.

Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told the RFA that the higher accuracy of the KN-24 might even diminish Pyongyang’s incentive to use nuclear weapons for short-range missions.

Precision weapons such as the KN-24, US ATACMS and South Korea’s Hyunmoo-2 can accurately hit high value targets with single, conventionally armed missiles. Hitting these targets with older, less accurate missiles may require more missiles or a missile with a nuclear warhead, ”Duitsman said.

However, North Korea has been able to produce KN-24 in significant numbers, says Ian Williams from the Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to RFA.

We have seen them in the parades they have made. We’ve seen a good number of them … and just the number of times they’re fired, especially the KN-23, we’ve seen them test launch this now several times, typically firing them in pairs. So it indicates that they have a pretty good production capacity for them, ”Williams said.

Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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