North Korea fires 'several cruise missiles' into sea

North Korea has fired "several cruise missiles" into the Yellow Sea between China and the Korean peninsula, Yonhap news agency reported, citing South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Saturday's launch, which Yonhap said took place around 4 am [local time], comes only three days after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea on its opposite coast amid rising tensions on the peninsula.

On Wednesday, North Korea fired missiles hours after a US nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine [SSBN] surfaced for a rare visit to South Korea.

North Korea also warned on Thursday that deployment of US aircraft carriers, bombers or missile submarines in South Korea could meet criteria for its use of nuclear weapons.

It also comes as a US soldier is believed to be in Pyongyang's custody after breaking away from a tour group visiting the Demilitarized Zone.

The United States has said it is "very concerned" about how Private Second Class Travis King would be treated, and that as of Thursday, Pyongyang had yet to respond to inquiries about the soldier.

King was due to return to the United States to face military discipline after serving jail time in South Korea for assault.

Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points ever, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang's defence minister warned on Thursday that this week's port visit of a US nuclear-capable submarine to Busan — the first since 1981 — could meet the legal threshold for the North to use its nuclear weapons.

North Korea last year adopted a sweeping nuclear law, setting out an array of scenarios — some of them vague — in which it could use its nukes, including preemptive nuclear strikes if threatened.

The US submarine's port visit is a "legitimate defensive response" to Pyongyang's ongoing nuclear threats, it said.

In response, Seoul told North Korea that using its nukes would mean the "end" of Kim Jong Un's regime.

As Seoul and Washington have "made clear" before, "any nuclear attack on the alliance will face an immediate, overwhelming and decisive response", Seoul's defence ministry said in a statement early on Friday.

North Korea, formally named Democratic People's Republic of Korea [or DPRK], has been under UN sanctions for its missiles and nuclear programmes since 2006.

This includes an annual cap of its imports of refined petroleum and crude oil, imposed in 2017.

UN sanctions monitors have also long accused North Korea of evading the measures, including by continuing illicit imports of refined petroleum and exports of coal.

The Security Council has also blacklisted several ships for sanctions busting.


Source: TRT