Kim watches missile tests and warns that North Korea will take an aggressive stance in disputed seas

Kim watches missile tests and warns that North Korea will take an aggressive stance in disputed seas © Provided by The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a test of new surface-to-sea missiles and warned that the country would take a more aggressive military posture in disputed seas, the North’s state media said Thursday.

The report by the Korean Central News Agency came a day after South Korea’s military detected the North firing multiple cruise missiles into waters off its eastern port of Wonsan. The launches were the sixth such event this year and added to a provocative run in weapons demonstrations since 2022.

Some experts say Kim may seek to further dial up pressure in an election year in South Korea and the United States. There are growing concerns in South Korea about a direct military provocation, and a possible area of conflict could be the Koreas’ poorly drawn western sea boundary, where several bloody skirmishes have occurred in past years.

Kim supervised the test launches of the new weapon, named Padasuri-6, and said the North would strengthen its deployment of surface-to-sea missiles to fend off any “adventurous” attempts by the South Korean navy. He accused South Korea of frequently violating what he decried as North Korean territorial waters with its maritime patrols and interdiction of third-party ships. He ordered his navy to strengthen its defense posture in waters near the South Korean border islands of Baekryeong and Yeonpyeong, where a North Korean artillery bombardment killed four people in 2010.

“It is not important how many lines exist in the (western sea) and there is no need to thrash out the rights and wrongs. What is clear is that when the enemy intrudes into the maritime border recognized by us, we will regard it as an encroachment upon the sovereignty of (North Korea) and an armed provocation against it,” KCNA paraphrased Kim as saying.

The report did not specify precisely what North Korea considers its maritime border. In a speech at Pyongyang’s parliament on Jan. 15, Kim reiterated that his country does not recognize the Northern Limit Line, which was drawn by the U.S.-led U.N. Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea has traditionally insisted upon a boundary that encroaches deeply into waters currently controlled by South Korea.

Kim told the Supreme People’s Assembly that if South Korea “violates even 0.001 millimeter of our territorial land, air and waters, it will be considered a war provocation.”

In the same speech, Kim also declared that the North was abandoning its long-standing goal of reconciliation with the South and repeated a threat that it would annihilate its rival with nukes if provoked. He ordered a rewriting of North Korea’s constitution to cement South Korea as its most hostile foreign adversary and to specify what North Korea considers its territory, which isn’t detailed in the current constitution. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson, Lee Sung Joon, said in a briefing Thursday that the South’s military would sternly respond to any provocation along the Northern Limit Line, which he described as “our military’s unchanging sea border.”

In early January, both countries fired artillery rounds near the western sea boundary in exchanges that caused no known damage.

KCNA also on Thursday said Kim inspected an unidentified munitions factory and instructed its workers to increase the quality and quantity of the weapons produced. Photos indicated the factory makes artillery.

The United States and South Korea have accused North Korea of providing artillery shells, ballistic missiles and other military equipment to Russia to help prolong its war in Ukraine, possibly in exchange for economic aid and military assistance aimed at advancing Kim’s forces. Kim in recent months has been boosting the visibility of his ties with Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break out of diplomatic isolation and join a united front against Washington.

Source: Kim Tong-hyung, The Associated Press