SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired an anti-ship cruise missile from waters off the east coast earlier this month as part of its regular summertime exercise, South Korean military officials said Thursday.
The test was belatedly known to the media, as neither the South Korean military authorities nor North Korean media outlets announced the launch.
According to the Seoul officials, the ship-to-ship missile was fired from a ship in the East Sea on July 6 and flew less than 100 kilometers.
The exact type of the missile is not known, but the officials hinted that this type of missile had been test-launched previously.
"We see this as part of the North's regular maritime exercise," Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) spokesperson Col. Kim Jun-rak said. "We are closely monitoring the North's military moves and maintain a tight readiness posture."
The summertime exercise began around early July and is under way. The summertime program usually lasts until around August, according to the officials.
The last known major missile test by North Korea was conducted on April 14, when multiple surface-to-ship cruise missiles were fired from its eastern coastal town of Munchon, which flew around 150 kilometers. They are known to bear similarities to the Kumsong-3 coastal defense cruise missile, or the KN-19, which the North first launched in June 2017, according to the officials.
Experts say cruise missiles fly at a low altitude by nearly skimming the sea, so they are quite hard to detect. The Kumsong-3 is also believed to be highly accurate thanks to its so-called waypoint maneuvering, which means the weapon reorients itself during flight.
North Korea has sought to beef up its defense capabilities, focusing on the development of conventional weapons, amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.
Excluding the April cruise missile test, North Korea has conducted major weapons tests four times so far this year, all in March involving short-range ballistic missiles, along with small-scale artillery firing drills.
In June, tensions on the peninsula escalated sharply, as Pyongyang blew up an inter-Korean liaison office and threatened to take military action in anger over anti-regime propaganda leaflets sent via balloons from the South.
On June 24, however, leader Kim Jong-un put military action plans against the South on hold. Seoul's defense ministry said earlier this week that no unusual movements by the North Korean military have been detected.
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