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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Update at 1010 KST: this article has been updated with further details on the test from the South Korean military.
North Korea on Tuesday morning fired two projectiles into the East Sea from its western South Pyongan Province, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
“Our military today… detected that North Korea launched two unidentified short-range projectiles eastward in the vicinity of Kaechon [city] in South Pyongan Province at 0653 and 0712 local time,” the JCS said in an updated statement.
“Our military is maintaining its readiness posture while tracking and monitoring the relevant movements in preparation for additional launches.”
The maximum flying distance was around 330 kilometers, adding that the U.S. and ROK intelligence authorities would conduct further analysis into the launch.
One expert told NK News that that range “would match with any of the four systems Kim has tested so far in 2019.”
“We likely won’t be able to narrow down a system without data on the apogee or time of flight,” Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said.
“The introduction of a launch from South Pyongan is quite interesting; that’s a first in 2019.”
The U.S. State Department in response to the news said it was “aware of reports of projectiles launched from North Korea.”
“We are continuing to monitor the situation and consulting closely with our allies in the region,” a spokesperson said.
The test is Pyongyang’s eight since July 25 — when North Korea began its most recent spate of short-range tests — and its tenth this year, including two earlier launches in May.
Tuesday’s launch is also its first since August 23, when the DPRK tested what it called a “super-large” multiple launch rocket system (MLRS).
In its statement Tuesday, the South Korean JCS urged the North to stop its regular weapons testing.
“North Korea’s overall act of escalating tensions is not helpful to the efforts of easing tensions on the Korean peninsula, and we repeatedly urge to stop it immediately,” it said.
During the recent testing period, North Korea has unveiled several new short-range weapon systems, while the frequency of launches led to condemnation from the UN Security Council.
More recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “disappointed” in the North’s continued missile testing and called on the DPRK to return to negotiations.
The test comes just hours after a formal DPRK offer to return to working-level talks with the United States, with the country’s foreign ministry issuing a statement late on Monday saying it could return to the negotiating table in late September.
In that statement, first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui said that she hoped Washington had a new “calculation” to share with Pyongyang.
But North Korea also warned that if the U.S. did not have any proposals, talks could fall apart.
“If the U.S. side fingers again the worn-out scenario which has nothing to do with the new calculation method at the DPRK-U.S. working negotiation to be held with so much effort, the DPRK-U.S. dealings may come to an end,” Choe said.
U.S. President Donald Trump in response welcomed Pyongyang’s proposal.
“Well, I saw a statement was just put out having to do with North Korea, and that’ll be interesting,” the President was quoted as having told reporters on Monday.
“We’ll see what happens, but I always say having meetings is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
Additional reporting and editing by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun