N Korea fires cruise missiles, as US and Seoul prepare for drills

N Korea fires cruise missiles, as US and Seoul prepare for drills

North Korea has fired two cruise missiles into the sea, according to South Korean officials, in Pyongyang’s first weapons test since early last month.

“Early this morning, we detected that North Korea fired two cruise missiles into the West Sea from Onchon, South Pyongan province,” an unnamed military official told the Yonhap news agency on Wednesday.

The last weapons test took place on July 10, when the North fired what appeared to be multiple rocket launchers. It last tested cruise missiles in January.

“The US and South Korean military authorities are analysing detailed specifications such as flight distance,” a defence ministry official told the AFP news agency.

The launches come a day after South Korea and the United States began a four-day preliminary joint drill in preparation for the long-suspended live field training known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, which takes place from August 22 to Sept 1. The exercises infuriate Pyongyang, which sees them as a rehearsal for invasion.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on stage delivering an update on his 100 days in office

Wednesday also marked 100 days in office for South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol who made no mention of the launches as he held a press conference in Seoul.

Yoon instead stressed his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea if it ended nuclear weapons development and began denuclearisation.

“Any dialogue between the leaders of the South and North, or negotiations between working-level officials, should not be a political show, but should contribute to establishing substantive peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” he said.

Pyongyang has carried out an unprecedented wave of weapons tests, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), this year despite tough international sanctions imposed over its weapons programmes.

Those restrictions do not extend to cruise missiles, but there is speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first since 2017.

At the end of last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country was “ready to mobilise” its nuclear deterrent.