North Korea fired multiple cruise missiles toward the Yellow Sea on Wednesday, the South Korean army said, at a time when tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang were at their peak.
“Our military has detected several cruise missiles fired by North Korea toward the Yellow Sea,” South Korea's general staff chiefs said at around 7 a.m. on Wednesday (10 p.m. GMT Tuesday).
“The detailed specifications are being closely analyzed by South Korean and US intelligence agencies,” he added.
Unlike ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, cruise missile tests are not covered by UN sanctions against North Korea.
These shootings come as South Korea is conducting an infiltration exercise for its special forces off its east coast through Thursday, “amid serious security concerns” with the North, according to the South Korean Navy.
“We will accomplish our mission of penetrating deep into enemy territory and completely neutralizing it, regardless of the circumstances,” the exercise commander said in a statement.
Tensions between the two Koreas have escalated sharply in recent months. The two warring countries abandoned agreements concluded in 2018 to prevent armed incidents, strengthened military installations on the border and conducted live artillery exercises near each other's territory.
Threats of war
Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the South was his country's “main enemy.” He dissolved government agencies dedicated to reunification and contacts with the South and threatened to declare war if his neighbor encroached on his territory “by even 0.001 mm.”
He also called for constitutional changes that would allow the North to “occupy” Seoul in the event of war, according to the official KCNA news agency.
In late December, Kim Jong Un ordered military preparations to be accelerated for a “war” that could “start at any time.” He denounced a “prolonged and uncontrollable crisis situation” that he said was triggered by Seoul and Washington with their joint military exercises in the region.
The tone also rose even higher in the south, where conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol warned that Seoul would respond “many times stronger” in the event of a provocation, highlighting his army's “overwhelming responsiveness.”
North Korea has stepped up testing of weapons banned by the United Nations in recent months.
In early January, it launched a solid-propellant hypersonic missile and fired live artillery near the maritime border with the South, triggering evacuation orders for several South Korean islands near the northern coast. Korean. Seoul responded with counter-exercises in the same region, on the west coast of the peninsula.
Finally, Pyongyang announced on Friday that it had tested an “undersea nuclear weapons system” in response to naval maneuvers by South Korea, the United States and Japan in the waters south of the peninsula.
North Korea also managed to put a spy satellite into orbit in late 2023 after receiving technological help from Russia in exchange for arms supplies for the war in Ukraine, according to Seoul.