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(2nd LD) N. Korea fires 2 unidentified projectiles into East Sea: JCS

Defense 08:18 July 25, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details, photo, byline)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Thursday fired two unidentified projectiles from near its east coast town of Wonsan into the East Sea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The incident came amid growing uncertainty over the prospects of working-level talks that the leaders of North Korea and the U.S. agreed to hold in the near future when they met at the inter-Korean border last month.

According to the JCS, the North "fired one unidentified projectile at 5:34 a.m. and the other at 5:57 a.m., from Wonsan areas into the East Sea, and they flew around 430 kilometers," according to the JCS.

"Our military is closely monitoring the situation in case of additional launches while maintaining a readiness posture," it noted.

South Korean and the U.S. intelligence authorities are analyzing exactly what the North launched, according to the JCS.

Given the flight range, Pyongyang on Thursday appears to have test-fired its version of Russia's Iskander ballistic missiles, just as it had done back in May, according to experts.

On May 4, the North launched a fusillade of projectiles, which involved "a new type of tactical guided weapon" and 240-mm and 300-mm multiple rocket launcher systems. Five days later, it fired a barrage of projectiles, including two short-range missiles.

Though Seoul and Washington have not confirmed the exact types of the missiles, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said he believes the weapons North Korea fired in two rounds of tests in May were nearly the same type, though some differences have been spotted.

The latest firings took place ahead of possible talks between Pyongyang and Washington on the North's nuclear weapons program.

In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to resume their working-level talks within a few weeks.

While Pyongyang has reportedly not responded to Washington's offer for dialogue, it called on the U.S. and South Korea to cancel their combined military exercise slated for August, warning that the drill would scuttle ongoing efforts to resume its nuclear talks.

The latest firing also came just days after the North Korean leader inspected a newly built submarine, calling for the deployment of naval forces to boost his country's military capabilities, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.

Since November 2017, when North Korea test-fired the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Kim Jong-un has declared a moratorium on nuclear and ICBM tests.

Though 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.

A suspected short-range missile is launched from Kusong, North Pyongan Province in the northwestern part of North Korea, on May 9, 2019, in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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