Gangneung Inaugurates Winter Youth Olympics with President Yoon’s Opening DeclarationNorth Korea Conducts Underwater Nuclear Weapons System Test in Reaction to Trilateral Drills

GANGNEUNG – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol officially opened the Winter Youth Olympics in Gangneung on Friday. The ceremony, which took place at the Gangneung Oval, marked the beginning of the event that will see 1,802 athletes from 78 countries compete until February 1.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, Yoon attended the opening ceremony and expressed his support for the young athletes. He highlighted the unifying power of the Olympics and sports, emphasizing the importance of fair competition and the valuable experiences the athletes will gain. President Yoon also voiced his hopes for the successful hosting of the event, citing the slogan "Grow Together, Shine Forever" for the 2024 Youth Olympics.

This year's Winter Youth Olympics, the fourth edition, is notable for being the first held in Asia. The events are spread across several venues in Gangwon Province, including Gangneung, Pyeongchang, Jeongseon, and Hoengseong. Pyeongchang previously hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In a related engagement, President Yoon met with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and other committee members at the Seamarq Hotel in Gangneung. He reiterated his commitment to ensuring the successful conduct of the Winter Youth Olympics. Earlier the same day, President Yoon also met with a group of local college students at a youth-run cafe. He listened to their concerns about university life, career prospects, tuition financing, living costs, and the development of local economies and colleges. The President pledged to attentively incorporate their opinions into his policymaking to support the realization of their aspirations.

PYONGYANG – North Korea announced on Friday that it has tested an underwater nuclear weapons system, stating the move was a response to the latest joint maritime exercise conducted by South Korea, the United States, and Japan.

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the North Korean defense ministry disclosed that the country carried out a significant test of the Haeil-5-23 in the East Sea. The ministry criticized the recent naval drills involving a U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier as "reckless confrontation hysteria." However, the KCNA did not provide specific details about the weapon's specifications or the date of the test.

A spokesperson for the North's defense ministry stated, "Our army's underwater nuke-based countering posture is being further rounded off, and its various maritime and underwater responsive actions will continue to deter the hostile military maneuvers of the navies of the U.S. and its allies." The official also condemned the three nations for "seriously threatening the security" of North Korea and sternly warned of "catastrophic consequences" for their actions.

In response, South Korea condemned North Korea's claimed weapons test as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a provocative act that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and globally. The South Korean defense ministry emphasized, "Under a robust South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture, our military has maintained a thorough readiness posture against North Korea's provocations and will respond overwhelmingly if the North stages a direct provocation against South Korea."

The naval drills involving the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, conducted jointly by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan from Monday to Wednesday, followed Pyongyang's recent launch of a hypersonic missile. North Korea has historically criticized joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington as a rehearsal for invasion.

In March of the previous year, North Korea first revealed a test of its underwater attack drone, the Haeil-1, claiming it could create a "radioactive tsunami" and stealthily attack enemies. April saw a test of the Haeil-2 attack drone. At a year-end party meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un emphasized the need for heightened war preparedness to counter what he termed "unprecedented" acts of U.S.-led confrontations. Kim also described inter-Korean relations as between "two states hostile to each other."

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