North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles, says South

Seoul, Mar 21 (efe-epa) .- North Korea on Saturday launched two short-range missiles off its east coast, the South Korean military said, in the third weapons test by Pyongyang this month.

The missiles were fired from North Pyongan Province in the northwest of the country shortly before 7 am local time The projectiles flew around 410 km (nearly 255 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of some 50 km before falling in waters between North Korea and Japan, South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

“South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing other specifics,” it said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“Our military is monitoring the situation in case there are additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture.”

The South Korean military said the launch was “a very inappropriate act” at a time when the entire world is battling a deadly health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The JCS called on the North Korean regime to immediately halt such weapons tests and other military moves.

The Japanese authorities also confirmed the launch of the projectiles but said the missiles did not land in waters under their jurisdiction.

It was the third weapons test by North Korea this month after a hiatus that lasted for three months.

The last such test was carried out on Mar. 9 when North Korean military fired missiles in what was believed to be “long-range artillery exercise” from a super-large multiple rocket launcher overseen by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

The earlier test was carried out on Mar. 2 when North Korea flew two missiles in a precision test that was also supervised by Kim.

However, it was not clear if he oversaw the latest weapons test on Saturday.

The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim guided an artillery fire competition between large combined units of the Korean People’s Army on the western front.

“The competition was aimed at making an inspection and evaluation of the artillery forces on the western front without notice to see how they are implementing the policy on building up the artillery force,” KCNA said.

It said the event examined “methods of artillery drills” and how these “ordinary drills” can be turned “into practicable ones for an actual war”.

In 2019, North Korea conducted 13 weapons tests by launching several new types of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

The year was marked by the failed Hanoi summit between Kim and United States President Donald Trump in February.

Trump and Kim have met three times. They first met for a summit in Singapore in June 2018.

Their second meeting in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi ended abruptly as Washington considered Pyongyang’s offer to dismantle its nuclear assets insufficient and refused to lift economic sanctions that weigh on the reclusive country.

The two leaders met at the inter-Korean border on June 30 this year, sparking hopes about reconciliation. However, no serious breakthrough was made to resume the denuclearization talks.

North Korea had put a year-end deadline for the US to come up with a fresh proposal for talks. EFE-EPA

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