North Korean state media on Sunday showed leader Kim Jong Un observing live-fire drills of long-range multiple rocket launchers and what appeared to be a new short-range ballistic missile, a day after South Korea expressed concern that the launches were a violation of an inter-Korean agreement to cease all hostile acts.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim expressed “great satisfaction” over Saturday’s drills and stressed that his front-line troops should keep a “high alert posture” and enhance combat ability to “defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance of the country.”
The weapons launches were a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington meant to provide coveted sanctions relief in return for nuclear disarmament. They also highlighted the fragility of the detente between the Koreas, which in a military agreement reached last September vowed to completely cease “all hostile acts” against each other in land, air and sea.
South Korea said it’s “very concerned” about North Korea’s weapons launches, calling them a violation of the agreements to reduce animosities between the countries. The statement, issued after an emergency meeting Saturday of top officials at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, also urged North Korea to stop committing acts that would raise military tensions and join efforts to resume nuclear diplomacy.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff initially said on Saturday that the North launched a single missile from the site near the coastal town of Wonsan but later said in a statement that “several projectiles” had been fired.
In its updated assessment on Sunday, the JCS did not confirm whether the North fired a ballistic missile, but said a “new tactical guided weapon” was among the weapons tested by the North, which also included 240 millimeter- and 300 millimeter-caliber multiple rocket launchers. The JCS said the various projectiles flew from 70 to 240 kilometers (44 to 149 miles) before splashing into sea.