North Korea Fires Suspected Artillery Pieces into Sea: South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea test-fired suspected artillery pieces into the sea on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for greater defense capability to cope with outside threats.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it detected several flight trajectories believed to be North Korean artillery on Sunday morning. The Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that South Korea is maintaining a strong military readiness, in close cooperation with the United States and a heightened surveillance on North Korea.

During a national security council meeting convened to discuss the suspected launches, South Korean officials expressed concern that North Korea is upgrading weapons systems that pose a direct threat to South Korea and reaffirmed they would sternly deal with such North Korean efforts, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

The North’s artillery tests draw less outside attention than its missile launches. But its forward-deployed long-range artillery guns are a serious security threat to South Korea’s populous metropolitan region, which is only 40-50 kilometers (25-30 miles) from the border with North Korea.

According to foreign experts, the artillery launch was just one of many weapons tests North Korea conducted in an attempt to force Washington and Seoul to ease international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Recent statements by U.S., South Korean officials and North Korean officials suggested that North Korea has almost finished preparations for its fifth nuclear test in the past five years. North Korea tested a ballistic missile intercontinental capable of reaching America’s mainland, violating a moratorium in 2018 on large missile launches.

In a speech at a ruling party meeting last week, Kim underscored the need to strengthen his country’s military capability, saying the current security environment is “very serious.”

Kim’s speech carried by state media didn’t mention the United States or South Korea. But he still set forth “militant tasks” to be pursued by his armed forces and scientists, a suggestion that he would press ahead with his high-profile arms buildup plans.

North Korea could conduct a seventh nuclear test. Experts believe that North Korea may use this test to make warheads for tactical nuclear weapons to hit targets in South Korea.

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