North Korea test-fires salvo of short-range missiles
North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday, likely its largest single test, a day after South Korea and the US ended joint military drills.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said at least eight missiles were fired from the Sunan area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang and they flew between 110km and 600km at altitudes between 25km and 90km.
In response to North Korea’s missiles launch, Japan’s Self Defence Force issued a statement that Japan and the US had conducted a joint military exercise.
And South Korea convened a National Security Council meeting where President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered “expanded deterrence of South Korea and the United States and continued reinforcement of united defence posture”.
The NSC meeting concluded that the missile launch was North Korea’s “test and challenge” of the security readiness of South Korea’s new administration, which took office last month.
South Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs said Kim Gunn, its special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, discussed the provocation with US special representative Sung Kim, the US point man on North Korean affairs. Kim Gunn also held a telephone conference with his Japanese counterpart Funakoshi Takehiro.
Earlier on Sunday, Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea had launched multiple missiles, and that the act “cannot be tolerated”. He said at a briefing that at least one missile had a variable trajectory, which indicates it could manoeuvre to evade missile defences.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea’s multiple ballistic missile launches highlighted the destabilising impact of its illicit weapons programme but the event didn’t pose an immediate threat.
Michael Duitsman, with the US-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said it appeared to be the largest single test ever by North Korea. A large number of missiles also suggests a military drill or show of force, rather than a test of new technology.