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

All News 13:43 March 02, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more details, background info in last 4-11)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the East Sea on Monday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, the first such launches since it warned of "a new strategic weapon" earlier this year.

The projectiles were fired from areas near its eastern coast city of Wonsan on Monday afternoon, the JCS said in a brief release. Other details, including their type, flight range and altitude, were not immediately available.

"Our military is monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture," the JCS said.

It is the first such projectile fire by the communist country since Nov. 28, when it launched two missiles from what is presumed to be a super-large multiple rocket launcher.

Last year, the regime test-launched missiles 13 times amid the stalled denuclearization talks with the United States. The tested weapons include new types of short-range ballistic missiles and a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

In its New Year's message, Pyongyang warned it would show off a "new strategic weapon" in the near future. Experts said the "strategic weapon" may mean an advanced version of its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or an SLBM.

North Korea had been keeping its military operations low-key in recent weeks amid fears of the outbreak of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, which has swept through China and is rapidly spreading in South Korea.

On Friday, however, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un surpervised a joint strike drill of his military, stressing his commitment to the continued development of combat capabilities, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Pyongyang has claimed that it does not have a single confirmed case of the novel virus, but it has intensified prevention and quarantine efforts. Last week, leader Kim presided over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party and discussed anti-virus measures, KCNA reported.

The latest launch also came despite the postponement by South Korea and the U.S. of the springtime combined command post training. The allies last week announced their decision to indefinitely postpone the planned drills as part of efforts to support Seoul's containment efforts over the virus and to guarantee the safety of their service members.

North Korea has long lashed out at the two sides' joint drills, claiming that they are nothing but a rehearsal for invasion into the North.

A projectile, believed to be the North Korean version of the U.S.' Army Tactical Missile System, is launched on Aug. 16, 2019, in this file photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea fired two short-range projectiles from a western region toward the East Sea on Sept. 10, 2019, South Korea's military said, just hours after the North offered to resume nuclear talks with the United States. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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