About the Author
View more articles by Chad O'Carroll
Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
Update at 1032 KST: This article has been updated to include new JCS statements which now describe the single “short-range missile” as “multiple short-range projectiles”
North Korea on Saturday between 0906 and 0927 launched “unidentified and multiple short-range projectiles,” South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) said.
The projectiles were launched from the DPRK’s Hodo peninsula, the JCS report said, which is located on the eastern coast of the country.
They then flew between 70 and 200 kilometers northeast from the peninsula, JCS said, with the U.S. and ROK said to be conducting detailed analysis on additional information.
The Hodo peninsula facility was last used by North Korea for missile testing in April 2016, though the Musudan/Hwasong-10-type intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) used then failed after launch.
Prior to that, the Hodo peninsula was regularly used for the testing of KN-02/Hwasong-11 short-range missiles between 2013 and 2015.
The KN-02/Hwasong-11 has a range of about 120km and has been tested on at least nine occasions from the Hodo peninsula, the NK Pro Missile Tracker shows.
“Our military has maintained the full readiness posture keeping close coordination between the ROK and the U.S. while heightening surveillance and vigilance in preparation for further launch by North Korea,” the JCS said of Saturday’s launch.
The White House, in turn, said it was monitoring the developments.
“We are aware of North Korea’s actions tonight,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“We will continue to monitor as necessary.”
One analyst said Saturday’s launch could have been expected given an ongoing diplomatic impasse between the U.S. and North Korea.
“This isn’t surprising given this was fairly well telegraphed by Kim, who explicitly complained about the U.S. hostile policy and warned of ‘corresponding acts’ in April,” said Ankit Panda, a contributing analyst to NK Pro.
“As for what the missile may be: if ROK JCS is right about it being a missile, and not rocket artillery (they’ve been wrong in the past), it may be the new untested SRBM we saw at the February 8 parade,” he continued.
“Or it could just be a SCUD, but a single missile tested would imply a developmental test to me.”
Following several acrimonious exchanges between North Korea and the U.S. throughout April, Saturday’s test notably comes after a flurry of notable DPRK military activity last month.
Kim Jong Un oversaw the testing of a new “tactical guided weapon” state media reported on the 18th, while the day before it emerged that he had inspected an airforce training drill – his first military-related on-site inspection in almost six months.
Notably, state media said top military officials Jang Chang Ha and Jon Il Ho were among those welcoming Kim at the test site of the “tactical guided weapon,” the first reported public appearance by the two since the Eighth Munitions Industry Meeting in December 2017.
By incorporating two officials who have been previously presented as key players in the country’s weapons programs, the intended message may have been both a domestic and international reminder that such priorities have not been forgotten.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Archive