North Korea Conducts Cruise Missile Launches from East Coast

SEOUL – North Korea launched several cruise missiles from its east coast on Sunday, according to the South Korean military. This action comes shortly after Pyongyang's test of new strategic cruise missiles from its west coast. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reported the launch occurred around 8 a.m. near Sinpo Port, although details were limited as analysis is ongoing.

According to Yonhap News Agency,South Korea is enhancing its surveillance and coordination with the United States in response to potential further provocations from North Korea. This marks North Korea's second cruise missile test this year, following the test-fire of strategic cruise missiles, named Pulhwasal-3-31, into the Yellow Sea on Wednesday.

The Pulhwasal-3-31, showcased by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 25, 2024, is reportedly a new type of strategic cruise missile in development. Experts believe this missile could be nuclear-capable, linking its designation to the Hwasan-31, a tactical nuclear warhead North Korea unveiled in March 2023. North Korea's development and testing of cruise missiles, including the Hawsal-1 in September 2021 and several Hwasal-1 and -2 missiles presumed to carry tactical nuclear weapons, underscore the advancing capabilities of its arsenal.

While cruise missile launches do not directly violate United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology, they pose a significant security threat to South Korea, particularly with the potential for nuclear armament. North Korea's recent actions, including the launch of a solid-fuel hypersonic missile and claims of testing an underwater nuclear attack drone, have escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula amid key election years in South Korea and the United States.

The ruling People Power Party in South Korea has condemned these missile launches, interpreting them as efforts to increase tensions ahead of South Korea's parliamentary elections in April. This pattern of provocations aligns with North Korea's historical strategy of escalating its military activities around the time of South Korean elections, further heightening the peninsula's security challenges.

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