August 18, 2022
SEOUL – North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles from South Pyongan Province toward the western sea on Wednesday early morning as South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol marked his 100th day in office.
“North Korea is presumed to have launched two cruise missiles near Onchon County, South Pyongan Province early this morning,” a South Korean military official told reporters on condition of anonymity, without sharing further details including flight distance and time.
“Our military thoroughly maintains military readiness in close coordination between South Korea and the US while reinforcing monitoring and surveillance.”
South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing the specifications of the launched cruise missiles.
The South Korean military reportedly assessed that the test aims to develop a long-range cruise missile system.
Tuesday’s missile test-firing is one of around 10 discrete cruise missile test-firings that have been conducted since 2020. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff generally does not share information on cruise missile launches by North Korea, given the difficulty of tracking their entire flight path.
In January, North Korea launched two land-attack cruise missiles. The North Korean state media reported that the test-firing was aimed at updating the long-range cruise missile system.
Timing of missile launches
North Korea’s missile launches were conducted on the day President Yoon offered North Korea once again to accept his “audacious initiative” proposal at a televised news conference marking his 100th day in office. Yoon reiterated his commitment to opening inter-Korean dialogue and advancing the denuclearization process through the road map.
Tuesday’s suspected cruise missile launches are the first of their kind since the Yoon government’s inauguration on May 10.
The test-firing also came one day after South Korea and the United States on Tuesday kicked off four-day preliminary military drills in the run-up to revived large-scale combined military exercises.
South Korea and the US are set to begin the combined military exercises, newly dubbed “Ulchi Freedom Shield,” from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
North Korea has a track record of using the South Korea-US combined military exercises as a pretext to heighten tensions.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup last week repeatedly warned of the possibility of “North Korea making provocations” on the occasion of the combined military exercises.
The South Korean military views North Korea as gearing up to fire various types of ballistic missiles in multiple areas, according to an anonymous source in the South Korean military. The Korea Herald learned that the military evaluates that North Korea is ready to conduct missile launches at any time.