North Korea Launches Submarine Missiles, Condemns US-South Korea Drills


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SEOUL —North Korea fired two "strategic cruise missiles" from a submarine off its east coast, state media reported Monday, a day after Pyongyang warned of a "powerful" response to U.S.-South Korea military drills that begin this week.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said the early Sunday launch demonstrated North Korea's ability to respond with "overwhelming powerful force" to the "U.S. imperialists and South Korean puppet forces."

The missiles flew for about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) in a figure-eight pattern and stayed in the air for about 125 minutes, KCNA reported. It said the cruise missiles were launched from the "August 24th Hero" experimental submarine, from which it has previously launched ballistic missiles.

"The drill confirmed the reliability of the weapon system and examined the underwater-to-surface offensive operations of submarine units that constitute" one of North Korea's nuclear deterrents, KCNA said.

In a statement released to reporters just minutes ahead of North Korea's announcement, South Korea's military said it had observed the submarine launch and was analyzing the details in coordination with the United States.

North Korea has for years been developing its capabilities to conduct submarine launches, which are theoretically harder to detect and could increase the range of North Korea's missile arsenal.

Over the past year, North Korea has launched an unprecedented number of missiles, including some that have triggered shelter warnings or air raid alarms in South Korea and Japan.

The United States and South Korea have responded by increasing joint military exercises. On Monday, the two sides kick off 11 days of major drills, including the biggest field exercises in five years.

The drills will consist of a computer-simulated command post training, dubbed "Freedom Shield." Separately, the two allies will hold large-scale joint field training exercises, called Warrior Shield.

Though the United States and South Korea say the exercises are defensive, North Korea views the drills as preparation to invade and often uses them as an occasion to conduct its own major weapons demonstrations and tests.

On Sunday, state media reported North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presided over a meeting to discuss "important practical steps for making more effective, powerful and offensive use of the war deterrent."

According to KCNA, the meeting of the Central Military Commission dealt with how to cope with the "present situation in which the war provocations of the U.S. and South Korea are reaching the red line."