N.Korea fires 2 missiles: Seoul (Ld)

North Korea on Thursday fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea in its latest weapons test, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) confirmed.

In a statement, the JCS said that the missiles were fired from the North’s Hamju town in South Hamgyong Province, at 7.06 a.m and 7.25 a.m. and flew around 450 km with an altitude of 60 km, Yonhap News Agency reported.

“South Korean and SS intelligence authorities are analysing the projectiles in detail, weighing the possibility that they could be short-range ballistic missiles,” a JCS officer was quoted as saying in the statement.

The last time North Korea fired a ballistic missile was in March 2020.

It was not immediately known whether North Korean’s leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the firings.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also said the projectiles were ballistic missiles, reports dpa news agency.

Suga said Tokyo is making “a serious protest” and that Tokyo “strongly condemns” the act.

“The launch threatens the peace and stability of our country and the region and it was a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” Suga told reporters.

It marks the second time Pyongyang has launched missiles in the past week.

Thursday’s development comes four days after the North fired two cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea on Sunday, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

According to a senior US administration official, the weekend launches were part of “normal testing” not in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

That test on Sunday came in the wake of joint military exercises by the armed forces of South Korea and the US.

The nine-day command exercise, which did not include field training, ended on Thursday last week.

Kim Jong-un’s influential sister, Kim Yo-jong, had condemned the military exercises and accused the new US administration of wanting to cause trouble as a first step.

North Korea is banned from testing ballistic missiles by UN resolutions, and has been slapped with tough international sanctions to deter it from continuing to develop rockets that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

The sanctions imposed as a result of the weapons programme are hampering North Korea’s economic development.

Washington’s negotiations with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme have not made any progress since former President Donald Trump’s failed summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in February 2019.

Although Trump touted his friendly relationship with Kim Jong-un, the two sides failed to agree on a roadmap for North Korea’s disarmament and what Pyongyang could receive in return.

According to media reports, the US has been trying to contact North Korea since mid-February.