According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, North Korea launched two projectiles from the peninsula in South Hamgyong Province at 5:34 a.m. and 5:57 a.m.
The first missile traveled about 430 kilometers, and the second flew about 690 kilometers, the JCS said, adding that both reached an altitude of between 50 to 60 kilometers.
“The joint evaluation of South Korea and the United States revealed that the second missile flew about 690 kilometers. Further analysis is needed, as there appears to be a new form of launch,” a JCS official told reporters.
Both missiles are believed to have been launched from a transporter erector launcher and they are assumed to have hit the East Sea, the official added.
The JCS officials did not confirm whether they were ballistic or cruise missiles, saying more time is needed to analyze the data. UN resolutions ban North Korea from launching any kind of ballistic missile.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported that a Japanese government source confirmed the two projectiles were short-range ballistic missiles and that they fell into the sea before reaching Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said it views the latest missile launches as violations of the inter-Korean military pact, in which the two Koreas agreed to stop all hostile acts.
“I will not specify the clauses, but I believe (the missile launch) violates the overall purpose of the military agreement,” Choi Hyun-soo, the ministry’s spokeswoman, said in a regular press conference.
The JCS did not confirm whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un monitored the launch, but said it has been carefully watching his movements, as Kim appeared to be staying in the region for a public outing.
Pyongyang’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday that Kim inspected a newly constructed submarine that “will perform its duty in the operational waters of the East Sea of Korea.”
North Korea is currently conducting its annual summer military exercise. Thursday’s missile launches took place 77 days after Pyongyang fired short-range missiles on two occasions in early May.
On May 4, the North launched multiple projectiles in what it claimed was a regular military drill involving a new type of tactical guided weapon. Five days later, it fired two short-range missiles, along with other projectiles.
Experts say the latest launches may have involved a newly developed missile or an updated version of existing missiles,
“The Hodo Peninsula is where North Korea usually test fires new type of missiles, so there are possibilities that the missiles launched include a newly developed one,” Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense Security Forum, told The Korea Herald.
“But there are also possibilities that the (second) missile is an updated version of Iskandar ballistic missile, considering the altitude it reached is between 50 to 60 kilometers.”
The latest missile launches are the first since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim met in the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, where they agreed to revive stalled denuclearization talks.
Pyongyang has raised its voice against South Korea and the United States over their planned combined military exercise slated for August, diminishing the possibility of the envisioned working-level negotiations.
The launches on Thursday came a day after US national security adviser John Bolton’s visit to Seoul. Bolton met with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, and foreign and defense ministers here to discuss a wide range of issues, including denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)