(2nd LD) N. Korean leader inspects new tactical missile system

Date: 2024-05-15T16:30:51+09:00

Location: en.yna.co.kr

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SEOUL, May 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a new tactical missile weapons system and called for an "epochal change" in war preparations by attaining arms production plans, state media said Wednesday.

Kim oversaw the "tactical missile weapons system to be newly equipped by the combined missile units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in charge of an important firing assignment" on Tuesday, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

It did not provide further details on the new system or where the inspection took place.

Kim expressed "great satisfaction" about the production performance of the manufacturing sites in the first half, the KCNA said.

The North's arms factories, which have fulfilled their production plans for the first half of this year, will carry out plans to manufacture the tactical missile weapon system by the end of the year, the KCNA said.

The missile launchers produced in the first half of the year will be deployed to combined units of the KPA's western operation group, it added.

The KCNA said Kim called for the timely completion of ongoing weapons production plans.

The North's leader "particularly stressed the need to bring about an epochal change in the preparations of the KPA for war by carrying out the munitions production plans for 2024 without fail," according to the report.

The weapons unveiled Wednesday are presumed to be the "Hwasong-11 Ra" close-range ballistic missiles, which the North has referred to as "new tactical guided weapons."

The Hwasong-11 has a range of 100 kilometers and is designed to fly at an altitude of 25 km. It is similar to South Korea's Korea Tactical Surface to Surface Missile-1 capable of striking underground enemy targets.

The inspection came just two days after Kim made a weekend visit to major munitions factories that produce sniper rifles and rocket launcher vehicles and urged efforts to improve the military's artillery capabilities.

On Friday, he oversaw the test-firing of controllable shells for "the technically updated version" of the 240 mm multiple rocket launcher system, which the North said it plans to deploy in 2024-2026.

Observers said North Korea appears to be ramping up the development of rocket launcher shells in a bid to supply them to Russia for use in Moscow's war with Ukraine and double down on weapons tests targeting South Korea.

North Korea is believed to have supplied Moscow with 122-milimeter, 152-mm, and 240-mm shells, and short-range ballistic missiles, such as the KN-23 and KN-24.

Wednesday's disclosure of the weapons is seen as the North's effort to diversify its "weapons portfolio" for exports, experts said.

"North Korea appears to be revealing its production sites for tactical nuclear weapons, as well as conventional weapons, ahead of a (potential) visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin," said Hong Min, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

"It is intentionally showing Russia and the Middle East its capabilities for mass weapons production and weapons supply," Hong said.