North Korea fired two ballistic missiles at sea off its east coast on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, two days after North Korea claimed to have tested a new missile during its first test. weapons in six months.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the missiles flew from a central area inland to the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula and that further analysis with US officials was underway. “Our military maintains a full readiness position in close cooperation with the United States,” the JCS said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch “scandalous” and strongly condemned the action as a threat to peace and security in the region.
The latest launch came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss the stalemate in nuclear diplomacy with the North.
On Monday, North Korea said it tested a new cruise missile over the weekend. North Korean state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that they were developed with the intention of arming them with nuclear warheads.
Images in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Monday showed a missile coming out of one of a launcher’s five tubes in a ball of flame, and a missile in horizontal flight.
Such a weapon would represent a marked advance in North Korea’s weapon technology, analysts say, better able to prevent defense systems from launching a warhead through the South or Japan – both allies of the United States.
The missiles fired over the weekend traveled 1,500 km (about 930 miles), on two-hour flight paths – including figure-of-eight patterns – over North Korea and its territorial waters to reach their targets, according to KCNA.
Many experts say the North Korean test suggested it was pushing to bolster its arsenal of weapons amid a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility.
Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures to dialogue, demanding that Washington first abandon its “hostile” policies.
The North’s resumption of testing activity is likely an attempt to pressure the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic gain during Donald Trump’s presidency .
– Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report