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Alarm at fresh ballistic missile testing by North Korea

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Watching: Kim Jong-un inspects the military drill of units of the Korean People’s Army. Photo: Korea News Service via AP

Watching: Kim Jong-un inspects the military drill of units of the Korean People’s Army. Photo: Korea News Service via AP

AP

Watching: Kim Jong-un inspects the military drill of units of the Korean People’s Army. Photo: Korea News Service via AP

North Korea has fired two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea, South Korean officials have said, resuming weapons testing after a hiatus that may have been forced by the coronavirus crisis in Asia.

The launches came two days after North Korea's state media said leader Kim Jong-un supervised an artillery drill to test the combat readiness of units in front line and eastern areas.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the projectiles were fired from an area near the coastal town of Wonsan and flew 240km north-east.

It said South Korean and US militaries were jointly analysing the launches.

JCS officials later said they were presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea is likely to have tested one of its new road-mobile, solid-fuel missile systems or a developmental "super-large" multiple rocket launcher it repeatedly demonstrated last year, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

Experts say such weapons can potentially overwhelm missile defence systems and expand the North's ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including US bases there.

Mr Kim had entered the new year vowing to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of "gangster-like" US sanctions and pressure.

He used a key ruling party meeting in December to warn of "shocking" action over stalled nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.

He also said North Korea would soon reveal a new "strategic weapon" and insisted the country was no longer "unilaterally bound" to a self-imposed suspension on the testing of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But Mr Kim did not explicitly lift the moratorium or give any clear indication that such tests were impending, and seemed to leave the door open for eventual negotiations.

South Korea's presidential office said national security director Chung Eui-yong discussed the launches with the South's defence minister and spy chief, and that officials expressed "strong concern" over the North's resumption of testing, which could raise military tensions.

Japan said that it had not detected any projectile landing in its territory or its exclusive economic zone.

Irish Independent