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North Korea is testing cruise missiles to demonstrate a nuclear counterattack

By Hyunsu Yim and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has tested four strategic cruise missiles during an exercise to demonstrate its ability to conduct a nuclear counterattack against enemy forces, its state media said on Friday.

Thursday’s exercise involved what appeared to be an operational Korean People’s Army strategic cruise missile unit, which fired the four “Hwasal-2” missiles in the Kim Chaek City area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNorth Hamgyong Province into the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, said the state news agency KCNA.

Other units conducted firepower training in hardened locations without live fire, she added.

The four strategic cruise missiles hit a preset target after completing the “2,000 km (1,243 miles) elliptical and figure-eight trajectories for 10,208 seconds to 10,224 seconds,” the report said.

The exercise demonstrates “the war posture of the DPRK’s nuclear strike force, which strengthens its lethal nuclear counterattack capabilities against the enemy forces in every respect,” KCNA said, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The rocket launches were not announced by South Korea or Japan, which are often the first to discover and publicly report such launches.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the launch was monitored but there were “differences” between what it and the United States discovered and the North’s explanation, without elaborating.

The launch came as US and South Korean officials participated in a tabletop, or simulated, exercise focused on the possibility of North Korea using a nuclear weapon.

In a separate cable, Pyongyang’s State Department criticized Washington and its allies for calling a UN Security Council meeting over the spate of recent missile tests.

North Korea has accused the United Nations of being “unfair” in its military activities while remaining silent on joint US-South Korea military exercises.

Kwon Jong Gun, director-general of the Department of US Affairs, reiterated that North Korea will consider “strong countermeasures” if the United Nations continues to serve as a “US tool to pressure Pyongyang.”

“If the Security Council, under the influence of the United States and its supporters, becomes a place where justice is judged for injustice and legal for illegals, it would only produce negative outcomes that further exacerbate military tensions,” Kwon said in one Statement Submitted by KCNA.

North Korea has pushed ahead with the development and mass production of new missiles, despite sanctions imposed by United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the nuclear-armed country’s missile activities.

Many launches, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Saturday, were reported by state media as exercises aimed at improving the capabilities of troops using the weapons.

“These demonstrations could be viewed as missile exercises rather than development tests,” the US-based Center for International and Strategic Studies said in a report this week.

North Korea could test ICBMs at a lower, longer trajectory and conduct its seventh nuclear test this year to perfect its weapons capabilities, South Korean lawmakers said on Wednesday, citing intelligence officials.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by David Gregorio and Lincoln Feast.)

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