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North Korea Fires Rockets in New Test, Amid Rising Tensions and Accusations of Weapons Supply to Russia

Seoul, South Korea: On Friday, North Korean state media released images of leader Kim Jong Un supervising tests of a multiple rocket launcher system, following South Korea’s accusation that Pyongyang fired a volley of short-range ballistic missiles. The photos showed Kim, dressed in a brown leather jacket, smiling with uniformed generals as he oversaw the launch of what appeared to be 18 projectiles.

The test involved “super-large multiple rocket sub-units,” as reported by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). The rockets reportedly “accurately hit an island target 365 km (226 miles) away,” showcasing North Korea’s military capabilities.

Potential Supply to Russia

Analysts have suggested that North Korea might be ramping up production of artillery and cruise missiles for potential supply to Russia, which could use them in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Pentagon confirmed this in a recent report, adding a layer of international concern to the tests.

KCNA stated that the exercises aimed to demonstrate the consequences that North Korea’s rivals would face if provoked, emphasizing the country’s readiness to carry out preemptive attacks under the guise of self-defense. The 600mm multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) used in the test is reportedly capable of being fitted with nuclear warheads.

South Korea and International Reactions

South Korea’s military detected the launch of approximately 10 short-range ballistic missiles, estimating their range at about 350 kilometers (217 miles). Seoul labeled the launch a “provocation,” aligning with the views of the US State Department. Spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the missile firings as “reckless behavior,” noting they violate UN sanctions and pose a significant threat to the Korean Peninsula.

Recent Satellite Launch Failure

North Korea’s missile tests came just after a failed attempt to put a second spy satellite into orbit, which resulted in a mid-air explosion. This attempt followed a rare trilateral summit between Seoul, Beijing, and Tokyo, where leaders called for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

In a retaliatory move, North Korea sent hundreds of trash-filled balloons across the border to South Korea, following the launch failure. This act was seen as a response to balloons filled with anti-Kim propaganda sent northwards by South Korean activists.

Yang Moo-jin, president of Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, commented that Pyongyang’s recent actions, including the balloon incident, were efforts to divert attention from the satellite launch failure. He suggested that North Korea aims to assert that it holds the military initiative on the Korean Peninsula, not South Korea or the United States.

In another KCNA report, North Korea accused the United States of deploying reconnaissance aircraft from Japan to the Korean Peninsula, engaging in round-the-clock monitoring and spying. The report warned of “unforeseen disaster” for the US and other hostile forces due to their “bluffing and reckless espionage.”

A new report from the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed that North Korean ballistic missiles were found in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, indicating their use by Russia in the ongoing conflict.

Upgrading Military Capabilities

North Korea announced plans to equip its military with a new 240mm multiple rocket launcher starting this year, signaling a significant upgrade in the country’s artillery combat capabilities.

As tensions escalate on the Korean Peninsula, these developments highlight the volatile dynamics and the complex web of regional and international implications.

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