North Korea Conducts Multiple Cruise Missile Launches from East Coast, South Korean Military Reports

SEOUL – North Korea escalated regional tensions with the launch of several cruise missiles from its east coast on Sunday, as reported by the South Korean military. This development follows Pyongyang's recent testing of new strategic cruise missiles from the west coast. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea informed that the launch occurred around 8 a.m. off Sinpo Port, without providing further details due to ongoing analysis.

According to Yonhap News Agency, these actions are being closely monitored in coordination with the United States to detect any further provocations from North Korea. The missile launch on Sunday represents North Korea's second such event in 2024, following the test-firing of Pulhwasal-3-31 strategic cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea earlier last week. The North Korean official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released a photo on January 25, 2024, showcasing the launch of Pulhwasal-3-31, a strategic cruise missile currently under development. The KCNA stated that these test-firings are a part of regular and mandatory activities for the development of advanced weapons systems.

Experts have speculated that the Pulhwasal-3-31 might be capable of carrying nuclear warheads, similar to the Hwasan-31, a tactical nuclear warhead introduced by North Korea in March 2023. North Korea's history with cruise missiles dates back to September 2021 with the launch of the Hawsal-1, followed by several tests of Hwasal-1 and -2 missiles, presumed to be nuclear-capable. The term "Hwasal" translates to arrow in Korean, with "Pulhwasal" meaning fire arrow, signifying their low-flying, maneuverable nature which aids in evading missile defenses.

These recent cruise missile launches, although not in direct violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions that ban ballistic missile technology, pose a significant security threat to South Korea due to the potential of mounting nuclear warheads on such missiles. North Korea's increased military activities, including the launch of a solid-fuel hypersonic missile into the East Sea and claims of testing an underwater nuclear attack drone, have heightened tensions in a crucial election year for both South Korea and the United States.

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