About the Author
View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea launched an unidentified projectile into the Sea of Japan (known as the East Sea in Korea) from Sinpo at 6:40 a.m. this morning and flew 60km, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Wednesday.
Sinpo, located just north east of the city of Hamhung, is located in South Hamgyong province and is the location of one of North Korea’s key submarine bases, from which it has previously tested Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) previously.
Despite this, JCS officials told Yonhap News Agency that the missile had been launched from the ground, not the sea.
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) confirmed the reports, saying the projectile was launched from a “land-based facility near Sinpo.”
Pacific Command also identified the missile, saying “initial assessments indicate the type of missile was a KN-15 medium range ballistic missile.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a short statement in response to the news, saying: “North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile.”
“The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” he added. “We have no further comment.”
Tillerson’s statement appears to contradict the statement released by PACOM identifying the projectile as the KN-15, a possible reference to the Pukguksong-2 missile. The KN-11 moniker has been used to identify the Pukguksong-1 missile, which is launched from a submarine.
“Tillerson is either wrong or they know something we don’t,” David Schmerler, a Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told NK News.
The launch comes immediately prior to a high-level bilateral meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, set to take place this week in Florida.
North Korea’s most reported recent test came on March 22, when South Korea and the U.S. reported that a missile test from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan had failed and “exploded within seconds of launch”.
On March 18, North Korea tested a new high-trust rocket engine, with state media praising an “unforgettable day for the DPRK’s rocket development history”.
Two weeks early, the DPRK tested four ballistic extended range (ER) Scud missiles. Three landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with the missiles flying around 1,000 kilometers before splashing down some 250 km west of the Akita Prefecture.
Though state media showed only four being tested, NK Pro analysis at the time suggested that the DPRK had attempted to launch five – but that one had failed to launch.
In early February, too, North Korea announced that it had test-fired the Pukguksong-2 long-range missile – a device capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
Additional reporting: Dagyum Ji, Oliver Hotham