N Korea test fires sub-launched missile
North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Wednesday, days after threatening a nuclear strike in retaliation at the start of large-scale South Korea-US military exercises. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was launched from a submarine in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
The brief statement gave no further details and offered no verdict on the success of the test. The launch came amid escalating cross-border tensions and just days after tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops kicked off their annual “Ulchi Freedom” military drill.
Seoul and Washington insist such joint exercises are purely defensive in nature, but Pyongyang views them as wilfully provocative. North Korea on Monday condemned the drill as an “unpardonable criminal act,” and warned that any violation of territorial sovereignty would result in a “pre-emptive nuclear strike”.
The two-week annual Ulchi Freedom drill, which plays out a scenario of full-scale invasion by the nuclear-armed North, is largely computer-simulated but still involves around 50,000 Korean and 25,000 US soldiers.
The exercise always triggers a rise in tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, and this year it coincides with particularly volatile cross-border relations following a series of high-profile defections.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye further angered Pyongyang this week by suggesting the defections showed “serious cracks” in supreme leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime.
US calls N Korea missile test fire provocation
The US has strongly condemned North Korea’s test firing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, describing it as a “provocation” in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. “We strongly condemn this and North Korea’s other recent missile tests, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology,” said Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross.