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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
Update at 10:00 and 17:45: this article has been updated to include further details from South Korea’s military and comment from a U.S. official.
North Korea on Saturday morning launched what is believed to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The missiles were reportedly launched from the country’s North Pyongan Province, which borders China, into the Sea of Japan, known in Korea as the East Sea.
They were fired at 06:45 and 06:50, the JCS said in a follow-up statement, and flew 410 kilometers at an altitude of 50 kilometers.
“Our military is monitoring the situation in case there are additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture,” the South Korean military said, condemning Pyongyang’s decision to test missiles amid global efforts to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“North Korea’s such military action is highly inappropriate, at the time the world is going through hardship with COVID-19 declared by WHO to be ‘global pandemic,'” the statement said. “We urge [North Korea] to stop immediately.”
The missile launches were the third this month for the DPRK, and the third overall this year.
The previous two missile launches occurred on March 2 and March 9.
On March 2, the North fired two missiles described by state media as a “firepower strike drill” of “long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People’s Army.”
Images published afterward on the front page of the party daily Rodong Sinmun and in the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showed at least two types of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) firing at island targets during the drill.
On March 9, the North reportedly fired three or four missiles from an MLRS system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observed both of those launches in person, according to the country’s state media.
The State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
After the North’s first short-range missile test this month, however, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had “no reaction.”
A senior administration official told NK News on Friday that the U.S. is “aware of reports of projectiles launched from North Korea.”
“We continue to monitor the situation and are consulting with our Japanese and Korean allies.”