Seoul: A N. Korean missile found was an anti-aircraft weapon

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says the recovered remains of a North Korean missile fired southward amid a series of sea launches last week has been identified as a Soviet-era anti-aircraft weapon dating back to the 1960s.

South Korea’s defense ministry said Wednesday that an analysis of the 3-meter (9.8-foot) wreckage recovered from waters near Korea’s eastern sea border on Sunday showed it was one of North Korea’s SA-5 surface-to-air missiles. The ministry said that a similar missile was used by the Russian army to carry out ground attacks during the invasion of Ukraine.

Photos released by the South Korean military showed what appeared to be a damaged rocket engine and wires sticking out of the rocket’s broken body, which was still attached by fins.

The missile, which was one of more than 20 missiles fired by North Korea last Wednesday, flew toward an inhabited South Korean island and landed near the rivals’ tense maritime border, setting off air raid sirens and forcing residents of Ulleung Island to evacuate.

South Korea’s defense ministry said it “strongly” condemned North Korea’s firing of the SA-5, which it considered a violation of the 2018 inter-Korean military agreement to reduce tensions.

North Korea fired dozens of missiles last week, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that prompted evacuation warnings in northern Japan, in an angry reaction to a massive joint air drill between the United States and South Korea that the North described as a rehearsal for an invasion.

Some experts say North Korea may have reached into an inventory of some of its older weapons to support the expanded scope of last week’s launches, which the North described as simulated attacks on key South Korean and US targets such as air bases and command operations systems.

The launches added to North Korea’s record pace of weapons testing this year as leader Kim Jong Un takes advantage of the distraction created by Russia’s war on Ukraine to accelerate weapons development and increase pressure on the United States and its regional allies.

“The North Koreans would like to demonstrate their range of missile technology through these tests, but not all launches need to reveal the latest technological advances,” said Soo Kim, a security analyst at the California-based RAND Corporation.

“It may be in North Korea’s interest to keep some of its modern capabilities in reserve and test them at opportune times. “Kim, again, is playing the longer game, so revealing all his cards – the different types of missiles and capabilities his country has acquired – would not work in his favor,” she said.

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