SEOUL – North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from the east coast of the country early Wednesday, the second weapons test in a week, days before the start of military drills between South Korea and the United States that Pyongyang opposes.
The first missile was launched at 5.06 local time (20.06 GMT Tuesday) and the second 21 minutes later from Kalma area near Wonsan port – the same place from where two similar projectiles were fired on last Thursday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The projectiles reached a height of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) and traveled about 250 kilometers before falling into the sea, according to by Yonhap News Agency.
The militaries of the US and South Korea are analyzing more details, it added.
Seoul criticized the tests and asked Pyongyang to stop these provocations that threaten to bring back tension in the region, while negotiations between the US and North Korea for the denuclearization of the peninsula remain stalled.
“Successive missile launches by North Korea are not conducive to efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and we call for a halt to these acts,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
In another statement, the South Korean presidential office expressed its grave concern that the test may have a negative impact on efforts for peace in the region.
North Korean media are yet to report on the recent launches. Last week, they underlined that the previous tests were personally overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and termed it as a show of strength against the South Korean defense forces.
Last week’s tests were the first by Pyongyang after Kim and US President Donald Trump held a historic meeting on the inter-Korean border on June 30 and decided to renew their talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean state-owned news agency KCNA said that the launch on Thursday was that of “a new type of tactical guided weapon,” and the exercise was a “solemn warning to South Korean warmongers” attempting to intimidate Pyongyang with the “19-2 DongMaeng” military drills to be jointly conducted by the US and South Korea next month.
The South Korean army, however, identified the missiles as “KN-23,” or the North’s version of Russia’s surface-to-surface Iskander ballistic missile and similar to one tested by Pyongyang in May.
There are indications that the latest missiles launched are of the same type, as they were also launched from mobile platforms and had similar flight patterns, a South Korean army spokesman said, according to Yonhap agency.
This series of launches come as Washington tries to revive talks on disarmament of the regime, in line with the agreement reached between Trump and Kim during their summit, although Pyongyang has accused Washington of violating the pact by conducting joint military drills.
The Trump administration has downplayed the importance of last week’s tests by calling it “smaller” missiles and an attempt by the regime to reassert its position in the face of a likely resumption of negotiations between them.