North Korea confirms firing two ballistic missiles, says will ‘annihilate enemy’ if needed
North Korea has confirmed that it has fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast, saying the launches were a "demonstration drill" designed to train sub-military units to "annihilate the enemy" if necessary.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed the twin launches on Wednesday, saying a missile unit fired two surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missiles from South Hwanghae Province, which flew some 611 kms (380 miles) over the country before hitting a target on a small island off the east coast.
“Saying that they will surely annihilate the enemy if they fight it, the commander of the unit resolved to thoroughly have the ability to fully carry out its duty of fire assault any time by further intensifying the training of every fire assault company,” KCNA said.
On Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the North had fired two short-range ballistic missiles from South Hwanghae at around 7:40 a.m. local time.
The South Korean military was on high alert and maintained full readiness posture under close coordination with the United States, the JCS said in a statement.
The launches came a day after South Korea and the US began 11 days of joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” which are being held on a scale not seen since 2017. The drills feature field exercises, including amphibious landings.
The US and the South have held several joint drills since the beginning of the year. Washington and Seoul say their joint exercises are defensive in nature, but Pyongyang considers them as rehearsals for the invasion of its territory.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the country’s military to intensify drills to deter and respond to a “real war” if necessary.
The North conducted several missile launches throughout the past month, timing them around the US-South Korea war games.
Last year, North Korea fired roughly 75 missiles, an annual record, in 36 separate days of testing.
North Korea has defended its missile tests as a legitimate defense against military threats posed by the US and its allies.
North Korea has been subjected to harsh sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which have nevertheless not prevented it from developing its military capabilities.