North Korean missile use in Ukraine raises alarm, sparks US deployment plans | World News - Hindustan Times
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North Korean missile use in Ukraine raises alarm, sparks US deployment plans

Bloomberg |
Apr 07, 2024 11:01 AM IST

North Korea has been accused of sending to Russia its newest nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that are easy to hide, quick to deploy and hard to shoot down.

Russia’s use of North Korean missiles in its assault in Ukraine is giving Pyongyang a rare chance to test its weapons in combat and perhaps take away lessons that could improve their performance, a top US general said.

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the test-fire of what they call an intermediate-range ballistic missile on the outskirts of Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, April 2, 2024.(AP)
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the test-fire of what they call an intermediate-range ballistic missile on the outskirts of Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, April 2, 2024.(AP)

“I don’t believe that in my recent memory that the North Korean military has had a battlefield laboratory quite like the Russians are affording them to have in Ukraine,” said General Charles Flynn, the US Army Pacific’s commanding general.

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That gives North Korea an opportunity to gain valuable information in technical matters, procedures and the munitions themselves. The US will be watching closely how this unfolds, Flynn said Saturday during a visit to the sprawling US Army Garrison Humphreys, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Seoul.

Read: Russia strikes Ukraine's Kharkiv with aerial bombs for the first time since 2022

Flynn said a great concern for him and others is that North Korea will be able to learn things about their weapons “they would otherwise not have access to absent a conflict” like the war in Ukraine.

The US will be deploying missile systems with mid-range capability to the Indo-Pacific region soon, Flynn said, without giving further details on timing or locations. Such a move could draw the ire of China, which in 2019 warned that US allies in the region risked countermeasures if they accepted the deployment of intermediate-range American missiles.

The US, South Korea and others have accused North Korea of sending to Russia its newest nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that are easy to hide, quick to deploy and hard to shoot down. Images provided by the US indicate they are Hwasong-11s, a wide class of short-range ballistic missile that can reliably hit targets with a high degree of precision, according to weapons experts.

Read: Over 20 Indians in Russia-Ukraine conflict zone: MoS Muraleedharan

They have ranges of 380 to 800 kilometers and increase the pool of weapons Russian President Vladimir Putin can draw upon. Prosecutors in Kharkiv said in March that Russian forces have fired North Korean missiles at Ukraine about 50 times since the start of the invasion, providing documentation for what it said included a Hwasong-11 family missile, specialist service NK News reported.

The North Korean missiles sent so far are similar in size and flight dynamics to Russia’s Iskander series, weapons experts have said. A report last year by the Center for Strategic and International Studies showed that the US Patriot air defense system has so far been largely effective in countering Russia’s missiles.

US allies South Korea and Japan both deploy Patriot batteries. These air defense systems have a powerful radar able to track as many as 100 targets including cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and aircraft, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

Read: Russia's domestic ammunition production insufficient for Ukraine war, Western officials say

The US, South Korea, Japan and Europe have accused North Korea of sending massive amounts of munitions to Russia, which are interoperable with the Soviet-era systems being used in Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the charges despite a multitude of satellite photos released by research groups and the US government showing the flow of weapons from North Korea to Russia and then to munitions dumps near the border with Ukraine.

In return for the arms, which are likely valued at several billion dollars, Russia is providing North Korea with food, raw materials and parts for weapons manufacturing, South Korean officials have said. This has helped North Korean leader Kim Jong Un increase food security and further develop his weapons systems.

Flynn called North Korea’s continued testing of ballistic missiles concerning and destabilizing. Last week, Kim oversaw the test of a new ballistic missile designed to deploy a hypersonic glide vehicle that can deliver a nuclear payload to US bases in Japan and Guam.

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