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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea is presumed to have fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) off its eastern coast in South Hamgyong province Saturday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The JCS earlier in the day said the North had launched “unidentified projectiles twice” in the vicinity of Sondok in South Hamgyong Province.
“Our military today (August 24) detected two unidentified projectiles — which are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles — were launched toward the East Sea … at 0645 and 0702 local time,” it said.
The projectiles flew around 380km at an apogee of 97 km, the JCS said, adding the maximum speed was reported to be Mach 6.5 or more.
“Our military has maintained firm readiness posture while keeping close tabs on the relevant movement,” the JCS added.
The South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities conducted “detailed analysis of precise specifications.” Seoul, the JCS continued, will share relevant information upon request from Japan as the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) is still valid.
In response to the weapons test, the South Korean presidential office on Saturday expressed “strong concern.”
South Korean national security advisor Chung Eui-yong on Saturday convened the standing committee of the National Security Council (NSC) at 0830 local time.
The North’s launch of short-range projectiles and the “general military security situation” following the launch were discussed during the meeting, the Blue House said in a statement.
“Standing committee members express strong concern that North Korea continued to launch short-range projectiles even though the ROK-U.S. joint command post exercise ended, which the country recently criticized,” the statement read.
The NSC also “urged North Korea to stop the act of escalating military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
The committee members also agreed to make diplomatic efforts in tandem with the international community to make North Korea return to the DPRK-U.S. negotiation table “at an earliest possible time to achieve the goal of achieving the complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.”
Saturday’s test is the DPRK’s seventh missile launch since July 25, and comes just over a week since the North’s last missile test on August 16.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly oversaw the previous test, which North Korean media later said was “perfect.”
“Juche shells were fired in the presence of the Supreme Leader,” KCNA reported.
State media coverage was light on technical details on the purportedly-new weapon, though imagery published appears to suggest the rockets launched last Friday were the same seen the previous week.
While Pyongyang said previous tests were warnings to South Korea over joint military exercises with the U.S., there are currently no additional ongoing drills.
The most recent launch on Saturday also comes on the heels of potentially confrontational remarks from North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho issued on Friday.
In a rare statement from the North’s top diplomat, Ri criticized his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo and said that Pyongyang has “given [the U.S.] time, with maximum patience.”
“But if the U.S. still has an absurd dream about achieving everything with sanctions, we have no choice but to let it dream as much as it wishes or break down the dream,” Ri said in a Korean-language statement. “We are prepared for both dialogue and confrontation.”
“If the U.S. attempts to stand against us with sanctions without abandoning its confrontational posture, it would be a miscalculation,” he said.
“If so, we will remain the U.S.’s biggest ‘threat’ for a long time, and we will definitely make the U.S. realize what it ought to do to achieve denuclearization.”
Saturday’s launch comes following the departure of U.S. North Korea point man Stephen Biegun, who left South Korea on Friday, apparently without having met with any of the DPRK’s representatives despite earlier speculation that such a meeting could be in the cards.
Featured Image: KCNA