Were N. Korean missiles in test fires Iskander ‘knockoffs’?

Two short-range missiles test-fired by North Korea this week are similar to Russia’s Iskander tactical missile system by their operational characteristics, Yonhap news agency reported on Friday, referring to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

The ballistic missiles test-fired by Pyongyang are similar to Russia’s 9K720 Iskander system (NATO reporting name: SS-26 Stone) and are capable of flying to a range of about 600 km, the news agency said.

North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) announced earlier on Friday that DPRK leader Kim Jong-un “guided the power demonstration fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon Thursday.” As North Korea stated, the missile launches came in response to Seoul’s plans to deploy new weapon systems and hold military drills on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Friday that the two projectiles test-fired by North Korea on Thursday were an upgraded type of the KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles, which Pyongyang had already tested in May.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on Thursday that North Korea had launched eastward two short-range missiles that fell into the Sea of Japan. South Korea’s Defense Ministry believes that one missile flew about 690 km and the other 430 km. The South Korean military did not rule out that one of the tested projectiles could be a new missile type.

None of the missiles launched by North Korea reached Japan’s EEZ in the Sea of Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that North Korea’s new missile launches posed no direct threat to the country’s national security but pledged to keep close contact with the United States and South Korea on this issue.