By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to have tested a super-large multiple rocket launcher in this week's projectile launches after reducing firing intervals for operational deployment, experts said Tuesday.
On Monday, the communist country fired two projectiles in quick succession from its eastern coastal city of Wonsan into the East Sea. They flew around 240 kilometers, reaching a maximum altitude of around 35 km, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
It was the first such test by the North since Nov. 28, when it launched two missiles from what is presumed to be a super-large multiple rocket launcher.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday that leader Kim Jong-un attended a long-range artillery strike drill but did not provide specifics, such as the specific type of the weapon involved.
But photos released show the projectiles were the same as what it fired on Nov. 28, according to experts.
If confirmed, it is the fifth test of the system, as the North also previously included this type of weapon in its tests on Aug. 24, Sept. 10 and Oct. 31.
The super-large launcher is believed to be a 600-millimeter caliber one and employs a transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicle.
Experts noted that the firing intervals have been reduced through the launches.
The time gap between two launches was 20 seconds in the latest test, compared to 17 minutes in the initial test, 19 minutes in the second test, three minutes in the third test and 30 seconds in the fourth one, according to the JCS.
"The latest test is to verify its continuous-fire system of the launcher," Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense Security Forum in Seoul, said.
"The shorter interval, now 20 seconds, means that North Korea secures enhanced capabilities in launching surprise attacks, and that is what Kim Jong-un has called for," he added.
The super-large multiple rocket launcher is believed to have a maximum range of around 400 km, which puts most parts of South Korea in its reach.
During the October launches, the North flew the missiles from its western region, which was also deemed successful.
"Now that it also proved the successive firing system twice, North Korea could be seen as almost ready for its operational deployment," professor Kim Dong-yup of Kyungnam University's Far East Institute forecast.
Noting that the artillery pieces demonstrated "accurate marksmanship," KCNA reported that leader Kim "expressed great satisfaction" that the country's troops are "prepared to make rapid reaction to any circumstances and perfectly carry out their firepower combat duties."
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