North Korea has said it test-fired an upgraded tactical guided projectile, which South Korean and Japanese military earlier described as a short-range ballistic missile. The launch was Pyongyang’s second in a week.
The test-fire was carried out on Thursday, according to the state-affiliated KNCA, testing two of the new munitions. These are said to use improved solid fuel engines and heavier warheads weighing 2.5 tons.
The projectiles “accurately hit the target set in waters 600km off the east coast of Korea,” the report said, adding that the test was overseen by Ri Pyong Chol, a member of the political bureau of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.
The missiles were reportedly fired from North Korea’s South Hamgyong province, and flew some 450km (280 miles) before plunging into the Sea of Japan, according to earlier estimates by the South Korean military.
The Thursday launch came just four days after North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea, between the Korean Peninsula and China.
While cruise-missile launches are not explicitly banned under the scope of the UN resolutions on North Korea, testing of ballistic missiles is prohibited.
Shortly after Pyongyang confirmed the new launch, Washington condemned the reclusive nation’s increased rocket activity, denouncing the tests as “destabilizing.”
“These launches violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions and threaten the region and the broader international community,” a spokesman for the US State Department stated.
It has been speculated that the latest spate of launches might be timed to coincide with US President Joe Biden’s first press conference, which he held on Thursday evening. South Korean lawmakers who were briefed by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the wake of the latest launch told Yonhap news agency that Biden’s press conference was deemed “one of the possible reasons” behind the barrage of rockets fired by Pyongyang in the recent days.
Earlier this month, North Korea officially ruled out any contact with the new US administration at least until Washington abandons its hostile policy towards the nation. North Korea’s First Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui dubbed multiple attempts by US officials to reach out to the North “cheap tricks” and the notion of Pyongyang posing an imminent threat “a lunatic theory.”