North Korea claimed on Aug. 1 that its leader, Kim Jong Un, supervised the first test-firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system conducted the day before, adding it could potentially improve their ability to hit targets in South Korea and the United States.
Kim reportedly “guided a test-fire of a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system on July 31,” according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
The revelation, first made in a report from North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency, was different from an earlier assessment by South Korea’s military, which believes Pyongyang fired short-range ballistic missiles on July 31.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said July 31 that the weapons it assessed as missiles flew about 155 miles at an apogee of 19 miles—a range that would be enough to cover the region surrounding Seoul and a major U.S. military base just south of the city. The missiles, dubbed the KN-23, are engineered to avoid missile defense systems by being easier to hide, launch, and maneuver.
The latest missile launches were the second weapons test in recent weeks after North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea for the first time in two months on July 25, according to South Korean officials.
Patrick Buchan, Director of the U.S. Alliances Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Epoch Times in an email that if the reports were true, it could pose a problem for military defense systems.
“If these missiles are indeed the KN-23s, which are a North Korean designed short-range missile system, it poses greater challenges for allied missile defense and detection systems due to its unique flight characteristics and short lead time,” he said.
“On the diplomatic front these tests once again do not demonstrate good faith on behalf of Pyongyang to achieve a lasting peace on the peninsula,” Buchan added.
A senior Trump administration official told The Epoch Times previously that the White House is aware of the reports but declined to provide further comment.
The latest missile launches came from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan. The North Korean report did not directly mention the United States or South Korea but experts say it could pose a serious threat to South Korea’s defense.
North Korea has placed thousands of rocket launchers and artillery pieces near its border with South Korea, and its perceived ability to quickly devastate the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Koreans live, has been a central part of its strategy to deter military action from its rivals.
The North Korean report provided no specific descriptions of how their rocket system performed. It said the test confirmed the system’s “combat effectiveness.”
North Korean state TV also released still photos that showed Kim, smiling with binoculars, watching the launches from a viewing deck and a rocket soaring out of what appeared to be a launcher installed on a truck. The network obscured the images of the launcher and vehicle, apparently to limit outside analysis of the system.
The Associated Press contributed to this report