About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Update at 17:00 KST: This story has been updated to include additional information on the launch from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to add comments from an anonymous MOU official made this afternoon.
South Korea’s presidential office on Friday called on North Korea to cease regular projectile launches, warning that Pyongyang’s actions could serve to increase military tensions on the peninsula.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) earlier in the day reported the North had launched “two unidentified short-range projectiles” from near the east coast of the country.
The two projectiles, fired in the vicinity of Tongchon, Kwangwon province at 08:01 and 08:16 local time, are estimated to have flown around 230 km at an apogee of 30 km. The maximum speed was reported to be Mach 6.1 or more.
Friday’s launch was the North’s sixth weapons test in less than a month.
In response to the launch, director of South Korea’s presidential National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-yong convened an “emergency” video conference of the NSO standing committee through the “national guidance communications system” at 09:00 local time.
“North Korea’s launch of short-range projectiles this morning and the overall military and security situation on the Korean peninsula were discussed” at the meeting, the Blue House said in a Korean-language statement.
“The standing committee members urge [the North] to stop the act of firing short-range projectiles consecutively by the reason of the ROK-U.S. command post exercise with the concern that it could escalate military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
Seoul and Washington on Sunday kicked off the full-scale stage of their ongoing joint military drills, with this week’s exercise aimed at verifying the initial operational capability (IOC) for the future transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON).
The drills formally began on August 5 with a four-day preliminary Crisis Management Staff Training (CMST).
In its statement Friday, the Blue House said the standing committee had agreed to “review the firm joint defense posture which can respond to any kind of military situation through the ROK-U.S. joint command post exercise for the transfer of the IOC led by our military.”
The ROK JCS later in the day confirmed that the North is believed to have launched short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM). “It’s presumed they were short-range ballistic missiles, considering the flying distance, altitude, and speed, among other things, although detailed analysis is needed,” an official at the JCS said.
DEEP REGRETS, DISRESPECTFUL
Friday’s test came just hours after a statement from the DPRK ruling party’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) rejected ROK President Moon Jae-in’s Liberation Day calls for the two Koreas to return to dialogue.
That statement saw Pyongyang stress that it has “nothing to talk any more with the South Korean authorities nor have any intention to sit face to face with them again.”
It also suggested that even when ongoing U.S.-ROK exercises conclude at the end of the month, Seoul will have a difficult time bringing Pyongyang to the table for dialogue.
In response, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) on Friday afternoon said it is “deeply regrettable that the North slandered us one day after Liberation Day.”
The official — who wished to remain anonymous — said the government explained several times that Seoul and Washington conduct the command post exercise in preparation for the transfer of wartime OPCON.
The official said the ongoing drill is not a “large-scale field training exercise targeting the North.”
“Nevertheless, the North’s criticism of our side today oversteps boundaries and is disrespectful,” they said. “South and North Korea should make efforts to uphold what they ought to keep and respect each other for the development of inter-Korean relations and peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
Earlier this morning, the MOU said Pyongyang’s comments ran against the spirit of last year’s inter-Korean agreements.
“Such comments do not correspond to the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration agreed between the South and North Korean leaders,” MOU deputy spokesperson Kim Eun-han said during a regular briefing on Friday morning.
The statement, he continued, “is not helpful to the development of inter-Korean relations at all.”
Seoul will adhere to a “consistent stance of thoroughly implementing the Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 19.”
“Dialogue and cooperation between the two Koreas is the only way to implement the joint inter-Korean declarations,” Kim added, stressing the South’s “unwavering position” that the two must resolve their issues through talks.
“We urge the North to actively respond to our effort to develop inter-Korean relations and establish peace on the Korean peninsula.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA, file photo