North Korea has unveiled a new type of submarine-launched missile, according to state media. Images shown on North Korean state TV appeared to show the missile being launched from a submerged platform. The reports suggested the missile was designed to target surface ships, and in particular, aircraft carriers. South Korean leaders have expressed concern about the development, while the US said it was monitoring the situation closely.
The announcement coincides with the start of joint military exercises between the US and South Korea. The drills, which take place annually, are a regular source of tension on the Korean peninsula, with Pyongyang often responding with military tests of its own. However, this year’s exercises are taking place amid ongoing talks between North Korea and the US, raising hopes of progress in resolving the long-standing tensions between the two nations.
The missile tests will undoubtedly inflame tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond. North Korea is known to have a number of missiles capable of reaching distant targets, including the US mainland, and any sign that its missile technology is advancing is likely to concern international observers. The developments will also be unwelcome news for the Biden administration, which has sought to pursue a policy of engagement with North Korea, but which has faced a series of escalating provocations from the regime.
The timing of the announcement, coming as it does just as the South Korean-US exercises get underway, is likely to be seen as a deliberate provocation. However, there is some hope that the two sides can reach an agreement that will allow the exercises to proceed without major incident. Both the US and South Korea have committed to scaling back the drills over recent years, and it is possible that they will take further measures this year to reduce tensions on the peninsula.