North ‘will pay for reckless provocations,’ says South Korea’s leader

(Update 1: Adds reaction from South Korea, changes head, slug, lede, minor edits)

Seoul, Mar 24 (EFE).- South Korea’s president on Friday vowed that North Korea will “pay for its reckless provocations” after Pyongyang announced it had tested a new type of underwater drone capable of generating nuclear tsunamis.

Yoon Suk-yeol was speaking at a ceremony in memory of the 55 service members killed defending the Northern Limit Line between North and South Korea during 2002-2010. The figure includes 46 sailors who died in a torpedo attack on the corvette “Cheonan” in the Yellow Sea 2010, blamed on North Korea.

“North Korea is advancing its nuclear weapons by the day, and carrying out missile provocations with an unprecedented intensity,” Yoon said at the memorial at the Daejeon National Cemetery, 140 kilometers south of Seoul, according to Yonhap news agency.

“I will make sure North Korea pays the price for its reckless provocations.”

The leader added that his administration and military “will dramatically strengthen the South Korean three-axis system in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile advancements and provocations, and further solidify security cooperation between South Korea and the United States, and between South Korea, the US and Japan.”

Yoon was referring to a military system involving anti-missile defense, a program to incapacitate the North Korean leadership, and a preemptive strike platform.

His speech came hours after North Korean state media reported that the regime this week tested a new type of underwater drone capable of generating nuclear tsunamis to destroy ports and enemy naval fleets.

Overseen by leader Kim Jong-un, the drone was deployed off North Korea’s northeast coast on Tuesday and “reached the target point in the waters off Hongwon Bay set as a mock enemy port with its test warhead detonating underwater on Thursday afternoon,” KCNA reported.

The device, which exploded “after cruising along an oval and pattern-8 course at an underwater depth of 80 to 150 meters in the East Sea of Korea (Sea of Japan) for 59 hours and 12 minutes,” was tested as Seoul and Washington carry out large-scale military drills in the south of the peninsula.

“The mission of the underwater nuclear strategic weapon is to stealthily infiltrate into operational waters and make a super-scale radioactive tsunami through underwater explosion to destroy naval striker groups and major operational ports of the enemy,” KCNA said.

Kim said the test should help the United States and South Korea to “realize the DPRK’s unlimited nuclear war deterrence capability being bolstered up at a greater speed.”

“He (…) seriously warned once again the enemies that they should stop the reckless anti-DPRK war drills,” KCNA added.

Development on the weapon began in 2012 and, after subjecting it to 50 different types of tests (29 of which were attended by Kim), its operational deployment was decided in the past plenary session of the Workers’ Party held in December, it said.

KCNA published four photos of the test of this underwater drone in which a submerged silhouette and an explosion near the sea surface can be seen, and some experts have already questioned whether Pyongyang could have such a weapon in operational condition.

Russia already has its similar Poseidon nuclear torpedo systems deployed and operational, although the enormous secrecy with which they have been developed prevents more details about this type of weapon from being known.

North Korea said it would respond to the allies’ spring maneuvers and has carried out half a dozen missile launches in the last two weeks.

KCNA also said Pyongyang had fired strategic cruise missiles on Wednesday “tipped with a test warhead simulating a nuclear warhead.”

Two “Hwasal-1”-type strategic cruise missiles and two “Hwasal-2”-type strategic cruise missiles were launched in Hamhung City, South Hamgyong Province, hitting a target set in the Sea of Japan after flying 1,500 kilometers and 1,800km.

The peninsula is experiencing high tension after 2022 in which Pyongyang, which has rejected offers to return to dialogue, carried out a record number of weapons tests and in which the allies once again carried out large-scale drills and deployed military assets to the region. EFE

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