April 18, 2022 10:24
North Korea said Sunday it succeeded in test firing a new tactical missile that would be capable of striking Seoul from the frontlines with a nuclear warhead.
The new missile has a much shorter range than an intercontinental ballistic missile but can be mounted with a tactical nuclear warhead and could pose a bigger threat to South Korea than an ICBM.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff here confirmed that North Korea launched two projectiles into the East Sea from Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province at around 6 p.m. on Saturday. The JCS said they flew to a height of around 25 km and a distance of approximately 110 km at a maximum speed of Mach 4.0.
The JCS for some reason delayed the announcement until Sunday morning, almost 14 hours later. It gave no explanation for the delay, triggering concerns over the South’s missile-detection capability.
But according to inside sources, the military did not feel the launch warranted an alert because of the missiles' short range.
Instead, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported the "successful launch of the new-type tactical guided weapon system" which is capable of "drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes."
KCNA added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "gave important instructions on further building up the defense capabilities and nuclear combat forces of the country."
Until now, the improved KN-23 missile had been considered North Korea's only tactical nuclear delivery vehicle. But if a smaller missile is capable of delivering nuclear payloads, the North will have a wider range of options to launch small-scale nuclear attacks.
North Korea is believed to have succeeded in miniaturizing nuclear warheads to just 60 to 80 cm in diameter and 600 to 700 kg in weight.
The launch is seen as a protest against joint South Korea-U.S. military simulation drills that start Monday and came a day after the 110th birthday of regime founder Kim Il-sung.
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