DPRK fires submarine-launched missile as S.Korea-U.S. war games kick of

Huang Panyue

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday test-fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast into the sea at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the start of annual South Korea-U.S. war games, Seoul's military said.

A South Korean defense ministry official told Xinhua that the DPRK test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) at about 5:30 a.m. local time (2030 GMT Tuesday) off the eastern coastal town of Sinpo in South Hamgyeong province.

The official said the DPRK's SLBM technology appeared to have advanced compared with previous launches as the missile flew about 500 km. Seoul's military has allegedly regarded the flight of more than 300 km in distance as successful.

It was the longest flight among any known DPRK test-firings of SLBM. The launch came just two days after Seoul and Washington kicked off their joint annual war games, codenamed Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG).

Pyongyang has considered the drills as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion, which the two allies claimed to be defensive in nature.

The Seoul defense ministry official said the launch was the DPRK's show of force to escalate military tensions on the Korean Peninsula on the excuse of the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.

The UFG computer-simulated exercises are scheduled to run through next Friday, mounting the already-heightened tensions in the region caused by Seoul and Washington's unilateral decision in July to deploy one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in southeastern South Korea by the end of next year.

This year's U.S.-South Korea war games adopt a so-called Operation Plan 5015, a wartime joint response scenario signed in June last year between South Korea and the United States. The OPLAN 5015 involves a U.S.-South Korea preemptive strike against the DPRK, raising possibility for military conflicts on the peninsula.



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