North Korea’s Kim Jong Un inspects missile test as regional rivals meet with Biden

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CNN
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North Korean state media released images of leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a missile test on Monday, days after its regional rivals held a historic summit, and as US-South Korea joint military exercises kick off nearby.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim was on site to monitor the launch of strategic cruise missiles fired from a patrol ship, belonging to the North Korean Navy’s East Sea Fleet.

While on board, Kim inspected the patrol ship’s weapons and combat preparedness, and “highly praised the ship for maintaining high mobility and mighty striking power and constant preparedness for combat to cope with sudden situation,” according to KCNA.

It added that the missile test demonstrated the ship’s capabilities and prepared the sailors for “carrying out the attack mission in actual war.”

Photos released by KCNA show Kim, dressed in white and black, standing with his hands on his hips beside uniformed sailors on the ship deck. Other photos show the test itself, the missile launching from a vessel in a cloud of smoke.

While the report did not specify the date of the test, KCNA published the photos on Monday as the US and South Korea kick off their large-scale joint military drills, which will take place over ten days.

The two countries have increased military and economic cooperation in recent years, drawing closer together in the face of growing threats in the Indo-Pacific – and as North Korea has rapidly ramped up its own weapons testing program.

On Sunday, ahead of the joint drills beginning, suspected North Korean hackers targeted a company involved with the exercises, according to South Korean police – but were thwarted by the security system, with no military-related information stolen. South Korean authorities are now working with the US military to investigate the hack attempt.

A cruise missile being launched from a patrol ship belonging to the East Sea Fleet of the North Korean Navy.

Seoul also responded to the North Korean missile drill on Monday, calling state media reports “exaggerated and in many cases different from the facts.” The country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff added that Seoul and Washington were both monitoring Pyongyang’s activities, and that the South Korean military was ready to “respond to any provocation by North Korea.”

The missile test comes shortly after the leaders of South Korea, Japan and the US vowed to establish a stronger partnership at the first-ever stand-alone trilateral summit on Friday, held at Camp David in the US.

After their meeting, the three leaders announced a new annual trilateral summit, a three-way hotline, and a commitment to conduct annual military exercises and share intelligence.

While the summit fell short of producing a three-way collective defense agreement, it served as a show of force against North Korea’s provocative behavior and China’s military and economic aggressions.

In their joint statement, the three leaders reiterated their call to denuclearize North Korea, urging the hermit nation to “abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” and condemning its “unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches.”

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