N. Korea launches missile for first time in 77 days

Jul 26, 2019, 09:23 am

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The photo shows an image captured from North Korea’s state television channel of a short-range missile fired from a launcher on May 9, 2019./ Source: Yonhap

By AsiaToday reporters Lee Jang-won & Woo Sung-min

North Korea on Thursday launched two apparently short-range missiles into the East Sea from Wonsan of Gangwon Province. The missile launches took place 77 days after Pyongyang fired short-range missiles in May 9. The latest saber-rattling by North Korea appears to be an expression of its complaints over the upcoming Seoul-Washington joint military drills and is also aimed at strengthening internal solidarity. Experts say that North Korea may launch additional missiles within a few days.

“Our assessment is that the two unidentified projectiles that North Korea fired today at 5:35 a.m. and 5:57 a.m. are short-range missiles,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. “It is estimated that both of them flew at an altitude of around 50 km and fell into the East Sea.”

The joint evaluation of South Korea and the United States revealed that the first missile flew around 430 kilometers and was identified as the North Korean Iskandar, the same as the short-range missiles that the North test-fired in May. The second one, however, is estimated to be a new type as it flew about 690 kilometers.

“Recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un conducted public activities in the region,” an official from the JCS said, indicating that the North Korean leader was likely to have overseen the launch on-site following the inspection of a new submarine revealed on July 23.
The successive demonstrations by Pyongyang appear to be an expression of strong opposition to the planned Seoul-Washington military drill slated for August. In the process of resuming the denuclearization talks after the June 30 summit talks, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry expressed dissatisfaction, warning that the joint military drill would affect ongoing efforts to resume its nuclear talks.

The South Korean government immediately issued a statement urging the North to suspend the provocation, while identifying the situation and preparing measures. “President Moon Jae-in received a briefing from the National Security Council (NSC),” Cheong Wa Dae’s deputy spokesman Han Jung-woo said in a briefing. “Cheong Wa Dae is in close contact with the NSC.”

The Defense Ministry called on Pyongyang “to stop such acts that do not help efforts to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

Apart from its military provocations, North Korea is acting against the June 30 agreement to resume talks. For instance, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho notified that he will be skipping the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) scheduled to be held in Bangkok next Thursday to Aug. 3. In addition, North Korea recently refused to accept food aid from Seoul. 

Experts say the move is part of its efforts to heighten its negotiating power in the working-level talks with the U.S. to demand a complete halt of Seoul-Washington joint military drills while strengthening internal solidarity at the same time. 

Sejong Institute researcher Chung Sung-jang pointed out the missile launch was just before North Korea’s “Victory Day” on July 27, saying, “It is aimed to persuade its military and sending messages to its people that its military power remains strong.” Chung said it is also part of efforts to gain concessions before the resumption of talks. “There will be at least one or two more demonstrations of low-intensity armed protests in the future,” Chung said. 

#North Korea #missile #provocation #short-range missiles 
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