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North Korea on Sunday said it test fired a new “tactical guided weapon” claiming it will help boost its ability to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield, just a day before the U.S and South Korea begin their annual military drills which Pyongyang has called provocative.

Key Facts

According to the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, the test launch was personally supervised by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The report claims that the new weapon is of “great significance,” as it improves the firepower of the North Korean military’s long range artillery units and enhances the “efficiency” of its tactical nuclear weapons.

The South Korean military said it detected the launch of two projectiles that flew 110 kilometers at a speed of Mach 4, Yonhap News reported.

Images of the weapon released by North Korean state media suggested that it might be a smaller version of its nuclear-capable KN-23 missile, the Associated Press reported, citing observers.

What To Watch For

The South Korean and the U.S. military are scheduled to begin their nine-day springtime joint exercises on Monday. However, unlike previous years the two militaries will carry out computer-simulated command post drill that don’t involve any field training, due to factors like Covid and their combined defense readiness, the AP report adds.

Key Background

The test launch and upcoming joint exercises may further ratchet up rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula. Since the start of the year, North Korea has carried out multiple missile tests and has also ended its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Last month, Pyongyang test-fired the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile which is believed to be capable of targeting the U.S. mainland. South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has pushed for a more muscular posture towards the North and its threats. During his campaign trail earlier this year, the conservative Yoon pushed his plans for carrying out pre-emptive strikes against North Korea and said such a move would stop war and protect peace. But earlier this month, the North Korean’s leaders powerful sister Kim Yo Jong warned that her country is prepared use to nuclear weapons to “eliminate” South Korea’s military if it chooses to carry out a pre-emptive strike.

Further Reading

N.K. leader inspects new tactical guided weapons test to improve nuke efficiency (Yonhap News Agency)

North Korea tests new weapon bolstering nuclear capability (Associated Press)

Source: Forbes

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