November 08, 2022 13:14
North Korea on Monday claimed it fired two cruise missiles into international waters off the South Korean port city of Ulsan on Nov. 2.
At the time, the North Korean military fired a ballistic missile across the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, into the East Sea, and the South Korean Air Force fired three air-to-surface missiles across the NLL in response.
"The enemy returned the fire to the open seas of our sides... [we] made a retaliatory attack with two strategic cruiser missiles to the open sea in the waters 80 kilometers off Ulsan... with the range of 590.5 kilometers from an area of North Hamgyong Province," state media cited the North Korean Army's General Staff as saying.
It even published coordinates of a point on the high seas between Ulsan and Japan, claiming that was where the cruise missiles dropped.
But the Joint Chiefs of Staff here deny having any record of the firing. The JCS said no North Korean cruise missiles were detected either by South Korea or by the U.S.
There was certainly no official announcement here at the time. If the North's claim turns out to be true, this would raise serious questions about South Korea's defenses and how the military here handles such incidents.
But the JCS insisted it is not. "The North's claim is untrue according to analysis by South Korean and U.S. surveillance and reconnaissance assets," it said Monday. "No North Korean cruise missiles dropped into waters off Ulsan on Nov. 2."
"It was confirmed that the North fired four ballistic missiles and about 100 artillery shells on Nov. 2," a military officer here also said. "But no cruise missiles were detected at all."
The claim loses credibility in light of other tall stories published by the regime. The North Korean military command also claimed it mobilized "500 fighters of different kinds" and test-fired a ballistic missile "to verify the reliability of performance of warhead for special function paralyzing the enemy's operation commanding system."
But the North is incapable of mobilizing such a large number of fighter jets, and its jets made only 180 sorties in total, according to South Korean analysis.
The North's claim about the missile that would "paralyze" the operation command was illustrated with what is believed to be a Hwasong-15 missile.
But in fact, the North launched a Hwasong-17 missile that fizzled in mid-flight and dropped into the water.
"The announcement was carried in the Rodong Sinmun, which targets North Korean readers," a security official here said. "It's possible that they exaggerated their military accomplishments for domestic propaganda purposes."
Another possibility is that the North is intentionally spreading misinformation. On Oct. 8, the regime claimed it had conducted "massive air attack training" by mobilizing some 150 warplanes. But in fact it mobilized only about 40 aircraft, some of which crashed.
But the announcement, whether true or not, bodes ill for future provocations. On Nov. 2, a North Korean ballistic missile flew across the NLL in the direction of Ulleung Island for the first time since the Korean War. It triggered an air-raid alarm and sent islanders scurrying for shelter.
Meanwhile, the JCS says it has recovered debris from another missile, which the North fired into waters off Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Nov. 2, from the ocean floor with an unmanned underwater vehicle.
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