Known as “Freedom Shield 23,” the 11-day joint exercises between South Korean and American forces will start on Monday and be undertaken on a scale not seen since 2017.
The two militaries have stated that the drills, which include field exercises like amphibious landings, will bolster their overall defense posture.
According to KCNA, the recent launch verified the system’s dependability and evaluated the submarine units’ capacity for underwater offensive operations, which are crucial to North Korea’s nuclear deterrence. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reported that it is on high alert, and its intelligence agency is collaborating with its U.S. counterpart to scrutinize the details of the launch.
For many years, North Korea (DPRK) has been upset about military exercises that it believes are preparations for an attack. In the past year, it has carried out an unprecedented number of missile tests and military exercises, claiming that it is trying to enhance its nuclear defense and improve the functionality of its weapons.
“It’s very regrettable that North Korea is using our regular, defensive drills as a pretext for provocation,” said Koo Byoung-sam, spokesperson for South Korea’s unification ministry handling relations with the North. “I hope North Korea realizes that there is nothing they can earn from escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
The tests come a mere 11 days before #SouthKorea and the #US are due to begin the 11-day course of drills nicknamed the "Freedom Shield 23," which #Pyongyang considers potential rehearsals for the invasion of its soil.#DPRK#NorthKorea https://t.co/OyTNYylVuk
— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) March 13, 2023
According to a report by KCNA, the “8.24 Yongung” [August 24th Hero] submarine launched strategic cruise missiles in the early hours of Sunday from the waters off the east coast of Korea. The missiles flew approximately 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) and successfully hit a target in the sea. However, a spokesperson from JCS cautioned that not everything North Korea claims is true, without elaborating further.
The extent to which North Korea has developed miniaturized nuclear warheads that can be fitted onto such missiles is not clear. Experts suggest that achieving this goal would be a top priority if North Korea resumed nuclear testing. Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, noted that the launch of cruise missiles from a North Korean submarine poses a serious threat to the United States and its allies, but cautioned that Pyongyang may be overstating its capabilities.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said there was no information that the missile flew toward Japanese waters or caused any damage.
“If North Korea’s announcement that the missile had a range of more than 1,500 kilometers was true, it would pose threats to the region’s peace and stability – we are concerned,” Matsuno said. He said U.S. military deterrence in Asia-Pacific is “essential” in the region, adding the North “may step onto further provocative acts such as a nuclear test.”
North Korea has a large submarine fleet; however, the 8.24 Yongung is the only known experimental submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles. According to experts, this submarine is critical to North Korea’s development of missile technology, submarine capabilities, operating procedures, and the training of new submariners.
North Korea has stated that it is constructing an operational submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. During an exercise involving the launch of short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un instructed the military to increase its training activities in order to prevent and respond to a potential conflict if necessary.