North Korea Launches Cruise Missiles Ahead of U.S.-Japan Tomahawk Missile Training

February 15, 2024 3:23 PM
Padasuri-6 missile. KCNA Photo

North Korea carried out its fifth cruise-missile launch of the year this week, firing a new surface-launched antiship missile (ASM), overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Meanwhile, the U.S and Japan will conduct the Joint Integrated Air Defence and Missile Defence exercise from Feb. 19–24, and Japan will have its military personnel begin training on Tomahawk cruise missiles in late March.

State-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday reported North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the evaluation test-firing of the new surface to sea missile Padasuri-6, which is to enter service with the North Korean Navy. Kim was accompanied by a delegation of party and military officials, including General Jang Chang Ha, general director of the DPRK Missile Administration, North Korea Navy chief Adm. Kim Myong Sik, East Sea Fleet commander Vice Adm. Pak Kwang Sop and West Sea Fleet commander Vice Adm. Pang Song Hwan.

KCNA reported the missiles fired flew over the East Sea (Sea of Japan) for more than 1,400 seconds (23 minutes, 20 seconds) before successfully hitting the target boat. It stated the location of the firing and the number of missiles fired. It also issued photos of the firing which showed the missile being launched by a tracked launcher. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) only stated on Wednesday that North Korea fired several unidentified cruise missiles off the northeast coast of Wonsan at 9 a.m. that day.

According to the report, the Padasuri-6 missile is to be deployed with the coastal defense battalions of the East Sea and West Sea fleets of North Korea’s navy. KCNA also reported that Kim stated South Korea frequently violated North Korea’s sovereignty under the pretext of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which North Korea does not recognise. The NLL serves as the de facto maritime border in the Yellow Sea between the two Koreas, though North Korea claims a boundary which lies south of the NLL.

The North Korean leader called for North Korea to thoroughly defend its maritime sovereignty by force of arms and actions, and gave instructions to bolster military preparedness, particularly in the border waters north of Yonphyong Island and Paekryong Island. KCNA quoted Kim as saying, “What is clear is that when the enemy intrudes into the maritime border recognized by us, we will regard it as an encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and an armed provocation against it.”

The two islands are South Korean islands south of the NLL with a civilian population along with South Korean military garrisons there. KCNA also gave a separate report along with photos on the same day about Kim touring a munitions factory but did not state when the visit took place. The various U.N resolutions on North Korea only apply to ballistic missiles and not cruise missiles, though the resolutions themselves have done little to deter North Korea from advancing its ballistic-missile capabilities.

Meanwhile Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) arrived on Sunday in South Korea to take part in the latest iteration of Korea Marine Exercise Program (KMEP). “The exercise is a regularly scheduled, annual training event that takes place with their ROK Marine Corps counterparts across the Korean peninsula,” according to a Marine Corps release. The release also stated Marines from III MEF will train alongside Republic of Korea Marines for multiple events designed to enhance their combined tactical integration and defensive capabilities. The drills will feature live-fire exercises, force-on-force training, close-air support training and subject-matter expert exchanges. The release did not state how many personnel were involved or the duration of the drills.

In addition to U.S. Marines deploying to the ROK, III MEF Marines also employed the Maritime Prepositioning Force to transit equipment via naval shipping from Japan to the ROK in support of KMEP. “This gives us an opportunity to train our Marines and Sailors, at the lowest level, on many of their far-reaching mission essential tasks in support of every element of the MAGTF,” said Col. Andre Ingram in, commanding officer of Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III MEF, in the release. “It makes the concepts we’ve discussed and planned for tangible in their execution and application.”

Over in Japan, following a meeting on Wednesday with Japan Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, U.S Ambassador Rahm Emanuel announced on social media platform X that training on the Tomahawk cruise missile for Japan military personnel will begin in the week of Mar. 25 in Yokosuka. “This initial Tomahawk training is just the beginning as we secure the Indo-Pacific together,” stated Emanuel in his post. Japan on Jan. 18 signed a deal for 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles with 200 each of the Block IV and Block V configuration. Initial deliveries are to take place after April 2025.

On Thursday, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) announced the U.S and Japan will conduct the Joint Integrated Air Defence and Missile Defence exercise from Feb. 19–24. The JSO release stated the purpose of the exercise is to improve the Japan Self Defense Forces’ (JSDF) integrated operational capability and Japan-U.S. joint response capability necessary for domestic air and missile defense. The drill will take place at various military bases in Japan and involve units from all three JSDF services and, from the U.S. side, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, 7th Fleet Headquarters, 5th Air Force and 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, along with several warships from both nations. The release also stated Australia will be invited to observe the exercise, which has been conducted since 2017.

The JSO also issued releases on Feb. 9 and on Wednesday regarding the movement of Russian aircraft around Japan. The Feb. 9 release stated that on the afternoon of that day, a Russian IL-20 electronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft flew from the Russian continent and traveled south over the Sea of Japan, before turning northwest off the Noto Peninsula on the main island of Honshu to head to Russia. Fighters from the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) Northern District Command were scrambled to intercept the Russian plane. On Wednesday afternoon, according to the JSO release that day, an IL-20 ELINT aircraft flew from the Russian continent and traveled south over the Sea of Japan before turning in an area off the coast of Sado Island, part of Niigata Prefecture on the main island of Honshu. The Russian aircraft then flew northwest toward Russia. JASDF Northern District Air Command fighters were scrambled to intercept the Russian aircraft, stated the release.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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