Security

North Korea fires two missiles as Seoul condemns ‘inappropriate’ timing – The Guardian


North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean off its east coast on Sunday, the latest in an unprecedented flurry of launches that South Korea decried as “inappropriate” amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Two “short-range projectiles” were launched from the coastal Wonsan area and flew 230km (143 miles) at a maximum altitude of 30km (19 miles), South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said.

“In a situation where the entire world is experiencing difficulties due to Covid-19, this kind of military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate halt,” they said via the Yonhap news agency.

Japan’s ministry of defence said they appeared to be ballistic missiles and did not land in Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone.

They would be the eighth and ninth missiles launched in four rounds of tests this month as North Korean troops conduct ongoing military drills, usually personally overseen by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un.

That would be the most missiles ever fired in a single month by North Korea, according to a tally by Shea Cotton, a senior researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

“Coming this early in the year, the only time we’ve seen tests this frequently were in 2016 and 2017, both of which were huge years for North Korea’s missile program,” he wrote.

All of the missiles fired so far this year have been small, short-range weapons such as the KN-24 which was most recently fired on 21 March.

But Kim has warned that North Korea is developing a new “strategic weapon” to be unveiled this year, with analysts speculating it could be a new long-range ballistic missile or a submarine capable of launching such missiles.

United Nations Security Council resolutions bar North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and it has been heavily sanctioned over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

This month’s military drills have been conducted despite a border lockdown and quarantine measures imposed in North Korea in an effort to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

South Korea and the United States have postponed some of their joint military exercises because of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea.

Politically and economically isolated, North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases, but some foreign experts have expressed concern.



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