North Korea fired two short-range missiles into its eastern waters on Sunday, a South Korean official said, an apparent test fire that comes just days after the country tested what it called new precision-guided missiles.
The Defense Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said the missiles were fired from Wonsan and are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles. The official said North Korea fired the missiles without designating no-sail zones, which the South Korean military views as provocative. South Korean media quoted officials as saying the projectiles appeared to be Scud missiles.
North Korea regularly test-fires missiles and artillery, both to refine its weapons and to express its anger over various developments in Seoul and Washington. North Korea has in recent days criticized alleged South Korean artillery firing drills near a disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea that has been the scene of several bloody skirmishes between the rival nations in recent years. The missile displays also come days before the leader of North Korea’s only major ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping, is set to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Seoul and Beijing have long pressed North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
North Korea said on Friday that leader Kim Jong Un guided test launches of a newly developed precision-guided missiles, in a likely reference to three short-range projectiles South Korean officials say the North fired a day earlier.
It’s not possible to tell if this assertion about the new missiles is an exaggeration, something North Korea has frequently done in the past when trumpeting its military capability, analysts say. Its army is one of the world’s largest but is believed to be badly supplied and forced to use outdated equipment.
Still, the impoverished North devotes much of its scarce resources to missile and nuclear programs that threaten South Korea, Japan and tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the region. Outside analysts say North Korea has developed a handful of crude nuclear devices and is working toward building a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although most experts say that goal may take years to achieve.
After a brief period of warming ties earlier this year, animosity has risen on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has in recent months threatened South Korea’s president, calling her a prostitute, and the South has vowed to hit North Korea hard if provoked. Pyongyang conducted a series of missile and artillery tests earlier this year in response to annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises it says it considers preparations for an invasion. North Korea also test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles and exchanged artillery fire with South Korea near the disputed boundary in the Yellow Sea.
On Thursday, North Korea’s army accused South Korea of firing shells into the North’s waters near the sea boundary.
South and North Korea routinely conduct artillery drills near the maritime boundary. A North Korean artillery attack in 2010 killed four South Koreans on a front-line Yellow Sea island.
The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.