North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from north of Gaeseong into the East Sea on Sunday, two days after a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in Busan to participate in a joint military exercise later this month.
The firing of apparent Scud missiles was the latest in a recent series of missile and rocket launches that Seoul officials say appear intended to show off the North’s military presence and create leverage in future negotiations with the South and the U.S.
“The North fired two short-range ballistic missiles, one at 1:20 a.m. and the other at 1:30 a.m. The projectiles are evaluated as having a range of some 300 km,” said an official at Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, declining to be named.
“The missiles were launched from north of Gaeseong, just 20 km away from the Military Demarcation Line. It is very unusual for the North to launch missiles from areas close to the MDL.”
The official added that the South Korean military was keeping closer tabs on the North Korean military’s movements and maintaining a top readiness posture to deal with additional provocations.
Last Wednesday, the communist state fired two short-range ballistic missiles from Pyongsan, North Hwanghae Province, which is some 40 km away from the MDL.
A Seoul official said that by launching the missiles from Gaeseong, the North wanted to show that it was capable of making surprise launches from any place at any time. He also noted that the North might have been expressing discomfort over the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.
On Saturday, the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said that the deployment of the aircraft carrier was a provocation that hinders efforts to improve inter-Korean relations.
“(The deployment) is an anachronistic military folly. With many pending inter-Korean issues (left unresolved), the South should understand that it is the time for it to make the right decision,” said the commission in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The 97,000-ton aircraft docked at a naval base in Busan on Friday. It will join the Search and Rescue Exercise, a humanitarian exercise involving South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, from July 21-22. The SAREX exercise is to take place off Jejudo Island.
Meanwhile, the South and the U.S. were in talks over raising the issue of North Korea’s missile provocations at an anti-Pyongyang sanctions committee of the U.N. Security Council. The allies believe that the North has violated all UNSC resolutions that ban any use of ballistic missile technology.
The North has fired a total of 97 short- or mid-range projectiles over a total of 14 days this year. The projectiles include Scud and Rodong missiles, and FROG (free rocket over ground) short-range surface-to-surface rockets.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)