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(LEAD) N. Korea fired 4 cruise missiles Wednesday: defense minister

All News 17:08 March 23, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks in paras 6-11)

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said Thursday that North Korea fired four cruise missiles the previous day, though a detailed analysis is still under way to confirm their specifics.

Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff has said it detected "multiple" missile launches from the North's eastern city of Hamhung on Wednesday morning.

"We believe four (missiles were fired)," the minister said during a session of the National Assembly's committee on national defense. "We have conducted the initial analysis, and the South and the United States are examining it in a more detailed way."

Commenting on whether the North has secured technologies to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and mount it on tactical weapons, the minister said the country is seen as having achieved "considerable" progress.

The North has been ratcheting up tensions through missile provocations, including a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile launch last week, as the South and the U.S. are conducting a major combined military exercise.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during a parliamentary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 23, 2023. (Yonhap)

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup speaks during a parliamentary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on March 23, 2023. (Yonhap)

During the session, Lee said there is a possibility the North would launch its first military spy satellite next month, as it has announced a plan to finish preparations for the launch by April.

"That is because the North has been accumulating technologies needed for a satellite launch through intercontinental ballistic missile launches," he said.

Lee dismissed the possibility that the South, the U.S. and Japan would pursue a trilateral military alliance on the back of a recent thaw in relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

"The expression, '(trilateral) military alliance,' is not proper, and there is no such possibility at all," he said.

Lee also rejected the speculation that Seoul's push for the "complete normalization" of its military information-sharing pact with Tokyo could lead to the signing of a bilateral logistics support agreement and the South's integration into the U.S.' broad missile defense system.

"I can clearly say that it's not," he said.


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