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(3rd LD) N. Korea fires two short-range missiles: JCS

All Headlines 19:39 May 09, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headlines, lead; UPDATES with fresh info in first 7 paras)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired what were believed to be two short-range missiles on Thursday, South Korea's military said, just five days after the communist nation launched a barrage of projectiles into the East Sea.

The projectiles were launched from the northwestern area of Kusong in an easterly direction, one of them at 4:29 p.m. and the other at 4:39 p.m., and flew about 420 kilometers and 270 km, respectively, before landing in the East Sea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

"Our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance in case of a further launch from North Korea, and has maintained a full-fledged posture in close coordination with the United States," the JCS said.

The JCS had earlier said the projectiles were fired from the Sino-ri area, where the North has a base holding medium-range Nodong missiles. Kusong is about 40 km north of Sino-ri, officials said.

The JCS did not elaborate further and did not specify where the projectiles landed or exactly what types the missiles were, only saying that the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are analyzing details of the projectiles.

Shortly after the first firing, Japan said no North Korean projectile had landed in its territorial waters.

"At the moment, we don't see any situation that would immediately impact on Japan's security," its Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

This file photo provided by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S.-based think tank, shows North Korea's Sino-ri missile operating base. (Yonhap)

South Korea's presidential office said it is keeping a close eye on the current security situation.

Chung Eui-yong, head of Cheong Wa Dae's National Security Office, is "keeping close tabs" on the situation, communicating with the Ministry of National Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) via video conference, at the national crisis management center, according to its spokesperson, Ko Min-jung.

The latest projectile fire came after the North launched a volley of projectiles, including what it claimed were newly developed "tactical guided weapons" off the east coast on Saturday, in an apparent show of frustration over the stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

Some experts said the tactical guided weapons are believed to be short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, though South Korea's military has said it cannot determine if the North test-fired ballistic missiles as of now.

Despite Saturday's launches, Seoul and Washington have given measured responses without denouncing the act as a provocation in an apparent effort to keep the negotiating process with Pyongyang alive. The two sides have also been talking about providing food aid to the North.

It remains to be seen whether Thursday's firing will affect the food aid plans.

The latest launches also coincided with a visit to Seoul by the U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and annual trilateral defense talks between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.

Biegun met with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, earlier Thursday, and is scheduled to hold meetings with other top officials, including Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, on Friday.

The latest launch could undercut what U.S. President Donald Trump has touted as his greatest accomplishment: the end of weapons tests. North Korea last conducted a major weapons test in November 2017, when it test-fired the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Kim Jong-un has since declared a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests, and launching short-range missiles does not renege on its self-declared moratorium. U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from all kinds of ballistic missile launches.

Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been stalled since the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February collapsed due to a failure to bridge gaps over the scope of Pyongyang's denuclearization and Washington's sanctions relief.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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