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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
UPDATE at 1916 KST: This story has been updated to include comments from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
North Korea on Thursday launched two short-range projectiles from what is presumed to be a large-caliber Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on the country’s east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced.
The two projectiles were launched “toward the East Sea in the vicinity of Yeonpo in South Hamgyong Province at 1659 local time,” the JCS said in a statement.
The name of the location is likely Ryonpo (련포) in the North Korean spelling, located in Hamju county just south of Hamhung along the east coast.
“Our military is maintaining readiness posture tracking and monitoring the relevant movement in preparation for additional launch,” the statement added.
Later, during a special briefing held at 1840 local time in Seoul, the JCS confirmed it had detected “two short-range projectiles which are presumed to be [launched from] a super-large multiple launch rocket system.”
The two projectiles traveled a maximum distance of 380km at an altitude of approximately 97km, Director of Operations at the JCS Jeon Dong-jin told assembled media.
The projectiles were fired with a 30-second interval between them, the JCS confirmed after the briefing.
Jeon said that the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities conducted a detailed analysis of additional specifications.
Speaking at the special briefing, Jeon urged Pyongyang to stop such military action.
“Such action by North Korea is not helpful to efforts to alleviating tensions on the Korean peninsula,” Jeon said.
“In response, our military expresses strong regret and repeatedly urges the immediate halt of acts heightening military tensions.”
Further details are expected to emerge on Friday morning through North Korean state media.
The test is North Korea’s first since late October, when the country was reported to have conducted a launch of a new MLRS.
It also comes one day short of the two-year anniversary of the DPRK’s test of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The test is the North’s thirteenth this year, according to the NK Pro missile tracker, and comes amid a continued diplomatic stalemate between Pyongyang and Washington over the DPRK’s nuclear program.
Talks between the two have faltered since a round of working-level negotiations fell apart in Stockholm in early October.
The test follows increasingly-provocative military actions by the North, with the country’s state media on Monday reporting that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) had conducted a series of artillery drills nears its maritime border with the South.
DPRK leader Kim Jong Un was during that drill said to have ordered his armed forces to ensure full preparedness by conducting “real war-like drill[s]” at a “higher degree of intensity.”
South Korea in the wake of the exercise — which took place on the 9th anniversary of the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong-do — condemned it as a violation of a military agreement between the two, urging Pyongyang to immediately halt provocative military actions.
North Korea has also in recent weeks sought to remind the U.S. of its looming end-of-year deadline for diplomacy to produce results, after which it has promised to pursue a “new path.”
“In lieu of issuing official pronouncements on the U.S., the North seems to have decided to show its resolve with action: the artillery firing close to the inter-Korean maritime border in Kim Jong Un’s presence, and now another weapon test,” wrote Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister site NK Pro.
“Interestingly, both of these events occurred on an anniversary: the artillery firing on the ninth anniversary of North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island, and today’s weapon launch one day shy of the second anniversary of the Hwasong-15 ICBM launch,” she added.
“Pyongyang’s posturing vis-a-vis the U.S. over the past few months, particularly after the Stockholm talks, foreshadowed a more militaristic path forward for Pyongyang, and we are seeing that playing out.”
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: file photo