The ballistic missiles fired by North Korea towards Japan and South Korea on Wednesday were “railway-borne” and would serve as a potential counter-strike against any forces that threaten the country, state media reports said.
Fired on Wednesday morning, the missiles flew 800km and struck a target in the sea off North Korea’s east coast, the state news agency KCNA said. The test was carried out by a railway-borne missile regiment organised earlier this year.
Images released by North Korean state media showed olive-green missile rising from a thick cloud of smoke and flame as it left the roof of a cargo train parked on tracks in North Korea’s mountainous area. The missile was fired from the central inland area of Yangdok, South Korea said shortly after it spotted the launch.
The missile launch, said to be in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, was confirmed by South Korea and Japan. Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s prime minister, called the test “outrageous” and a potential threat to the region.
On Wednesday, South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile under the watch of President Moon Jae-in, which “accurately hit the target”, increasing tensions between the Korean rivals.
North Korean officials have defended the missile test launch, which is being viewed as an aggressive exercise by regional stakeholders, and said that it is an effective way to counter strike.
Pak Jong Chon, a North Korean marshal who supervised the test, said: “The railway-borne missile system serves as an efficient counter-strike means capable of dealing a harsh multi-concurrent blow to the threat-posing forces,” reported KCNA.
He added that the North planned to expand the railway-borne missile regiment to a brigade-size force in the near future and conduct training to gain “operational experience for actual war”.
The North Korean army should prepare tactical plans to deploy the system in different parts of the country, Mr Pak, who is also a member of the Presidium of the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said.
Experts have said the new railway-borne missile launch shows North Korea’s effective and reliable nuclear side, and is in line with other nuclear superpowers.
“Rail mobile missiles are a relatively cheap and reliable option for countries seeking to improve the survivability of their nuclear forces,” Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said on Twitter. “Russia did it. The US considered it. It makes a ton of sense for North Korea.”
The railway-borne missile launch could possibly set the stage to develop a system capable of launching a larger, nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.