Short-range ballistic missiles fired by North Korea on Wednesday were a test of a new “railway-borne missile system” designed to increase the country’s ability to counter-strike threatening forces, Pyongyang revealed on Thursday.
State news agency KCNA said the drill – the first of its kind – took place at dawn in the country’s central mountainous region, launching missiles at targets 497 miles away.
Photos released by the agency showed a green missile engulfing a stationary train carriage in plumes of smoke as it took off from a densely forested area.
An official statement boasted that it would “increase the capability for dealing intensive blow to the menacing forces in many places at the same time.”
Experts say the broad range of firing options could make it harder for intelligence agencies to detect an imminent missile launch. The railway-borne system could also allow the North to disguise its weapons in what appears to be a passenger train.
Wednesday’s launch was North Korea’s second in less than a week, after it fired a cruise missile with nuclear capabilities over the weekend.
It also coincided with South Korea’s successful test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first non-nuclear country to develop such a system.
The two Koreas have been in an increasingly heated arms race amid stalled disarmament talks that the international community is struggling to kickstart.
"Enhancing our missile capability is exactly what's needed as deterrence against North Korea's provocation," Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, said after the test.
His remarks earned a strong rebuke from Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean leader’s powerful sister, who warned of the “complete destruction” of ties with the South.
Pyongyang’s own missile tests prompted an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday to discuss the “major threat” posed by North Korea.
"We all condemned what happened, the tests," said Nicolas de Riviere, the French ambassador, after the 45-minute meeting. "Everyone is very concerned about this situation.”
A short, simple thread:
1. Rail mobile missiles are a relatively cheap and reliable option for countries seeking to improve the survivability of their nuclear forces. Russia did it. The US considered it (https://t.co/VdOjt2N5JJ). It makes a ton of sense for North Korea. https://t.co/84BHRHYUXh
— Adam Mount (@ajmount) September 15, 2021
South Korea's military said the North has been developing variety of mobile launchers, which can operate from the sea, roads or now from railways.
In a statement, the British Foreign Office joined the United States in condemning Wednesday’s test as a "clear violation" of Security Council resolutions and a "threat to regional peace and security.”
It added: "We urge North Korea to refrain from further provocations, and to return to dialogue with the US.”