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North Korea says it has fired cruise missiles from a submarine and poses a new threat to the US

(Bloomberg) — North Korea said it had fired two cruise missiles from a submarine and issued a new threat to “mercilessly punish” the US for launching large-scale military exercises with South Korea that have angered Pyongyang.

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Kim Jong-un’s regime said it fired two strategic cruise missiles on Sunday from a submarine east of the peninsula that flew about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) on figure-8 trails before hitting a target. The so-called underwater launch exercise verified a North Korean “nuclear war deterrent” ahead of the joint exercises, Korea’s official Central News Agency said Monday.

While United Nations resolutions do not bar North Korea from cruise missile tests, launching the missiles from a submarine would mark another step in the state’s ability to potentially deliver a nuclear weapon that could hit US bases in South Korea. Korea and Japan could hit.

South Korea’s joint chief of staff confirmed the launch, saying on Monday it had captured an “unidentified missile test” fired by a North Korean submarine. “The detailed specifications are being carefully analyzed by the South Korean and US intelligence agencies,” the JCS statement said.

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The latest launches add to the barrage of missiles North Korea has fired in recent weeks, including an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland. It also paves the way for another rise in tensions as the US and South Korea hold their Freedom Shield exercises from Monday to March 23.

The US-South Korean exercises are among the largest the two have held in years and were designed to bolster their defenses against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. North Korea, which for decades has denounced such exercises as a prelude to invasion and nuclear war, has promised an unprecedented response.

North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement on KCNA Monday, denouncing the exercises and criticizing the US for plans to criticize Pyongyang for its human rights record.

The North Korean people are ready to “mercilessly punish the US imperialists who completely deny the sovereignty of our state and its socialist system, thus making them pay a heavy price without fail,” the statement said.

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Kim’s regime has threatened unprecedented action over the exercises, with Kim Yo Jong, the leader’s influential sister, warning that Pyongyang would turn the Pacific into a “firing range” if the US continued with exercises.

She also hinted that the state could begin testing whether its warhead designs can withstand the heat of reentering the atmosphere. North Korea has demonstrated that its missiles can fly as far as the US mainland, but the question is whether the nuclear warheads can remain intact.

The Freedom Shield exercises are designed to strengthen US and South Korean defenses against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. North Korea has denounced such exercises as a prelude to invasion and nuclear war.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May last year, brought back joint military exercises with the US that had been scaled back or halted under Donald Trump.

The former US president hoped the move would ease his nuclear negotiations with North Korean leader Kim. Those talks, however, failed to yield concrete steps to wind down Pyongyang’s nuclear program, which has only gotten bigger as disarmament talks faltered.

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Yoon is also looking to expand South Korea’s military cooperation with Japan, a move that North Korea strongly opposes as Tokyo is one of its mortal enemies.

South Korea’s spy agency briefed lawmakers in parliament last week on information that North Korea could test its new solid-fuel ICBMs as early as this month.

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