North Korea fired five short-range rockets into the East Sea on Thursday, in an apparent move to upgrade its rocket capabilities and show off its military presence, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“The North fired three projectiles from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan into the East Sea at 9:30 a.m., 9:40 a.m. and 9:55 a.m. without setting any no-fly/no-sail zone,” JCS spokesperson Col. Eom Hyo-sik told reporters. “The projectiles appeared to have a range of around 220 km.”
At around noon, the communist country launched two additional rockets from the same place into the East Sea, which flew some 200 kilometers, according to the JCS.
Seoul officials noted that the North fired the rockets while pushing to increase the ranges of its rockets. They also said that the launches appeared to be part of the North’s saber-rattling against Seoul and Washington.
The rocket launches came as Pyongyang called on Seoul to end a set of sanctions imposed on the communist regime and cancel the upcoming South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise to begin later this month.
“The South Korean authorities should remove as soon as possible unreasonable institutional mechanisms blocking the contact, visits, cooperation and exchange between the North and the South,” the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
As for the annual drills, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, the North has argued they were a rehearsal for a “nuclear war of invasion.” But the allies have argued that the drills were purely defensive in nature.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that it would push ahead with the allied exercise.
“To cope with North Korean threats, we need to maintain our combat capabilities, and to this end, we certainly need the UFG,” said ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok during a regular briefing.
The North has fired a total of 105 short-range projectiles into the East Sea over a total of 17 days this year.
The North’s demands came as Pope Francis began a landmark five-day trip here Thursday, and the two Koreas are set to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the peninsula‘s liberation from Japan’s 35-year colonial rule on Friday.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)