North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles off its eastern coast on Sunday, Seoul's military said, the latest in a flurry of weapons tests that have raised tensions with South Korea, the United States and Japan.
The launch comes nearly a week after Pyongyang fired multiple cruise missiles toward the Yellow Sea. North Korea then said it was the first test of a new generation of strategic cruise missiles called "Pulhwasal-3-31," suggesting it is nuclear capable.
On Sunday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said they detected the missiles over waters near the North Korean port of Sinpo, where the North has a major military shipyard building key naval vessels, including missile-firing submarines.
The missile launch, which took place at 8 a.m. local time, was being analyzed by South Korean and US intelligence authorities, the JCS said, without immediately specifying details.
"While strengthening surveillance and vigilance, our military is cooperating closely with the United States and monitoring additional signs and activities from North Korea," it said in a statement.
Rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula
Pyogyang carried out its first test of a cruise missile with possible nuclear strike capabilities in September 2021.
Unlike their ballistic counterparts, the testing of cruise missiles is not banned under current UN sanctions against North Korea.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased in the last few months as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continues to step up his weapons development program and issue provocative threats of nuclear conflict with the US and its regional allies.
Ties between the two Koreas have also taken a beating, with the recent months seeing both sides scrap tension-reducing agreements, bolster frontier security, and conduct live-fire drills along the border.
In response to Pyongyang's actions, the US, South Korea and Japan have been expanding their combined military drills — which Kim deems as invasion rehearsals — and sharpening their deterrence strategies built around nuclear-capable US assets.
dvv/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)