(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in paras 11-12)
By Choi Soo-hyang
SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Tuesday it conducted the test-firing of a tactical guided missile a day earlier to confirm the accuracy of the weapons system under production.
On Monday, South Korea's military said the North fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles eastward from the Sunan airfield in Pyongyang, marking its fourth show of force this month.
"The test-fire was aimed to selectively evaluate tactical guided missiles being produced and deployed and to verify the accuracy of the weapon system," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not attend the firing.
Monday's test-launch appears to have involved the North's version of the U.S.' Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), called the KN-24, according to a photo released by state media.
"The two tactical guided missiles launched in the western area of the DPRK precisely hit an island target in the East Sea of Korea," the KCNA said. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The Academy of Defense Science which conducted the test-fire "confirmed the accuracy, security and efficiency of the operation of the weapon system under production," it added.
It marks the North's fourth test-launch of the KN-24 missile following two tests in August 2019 and another in March 2020.
Launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL), the missile is known to fly on a complicated trajectory to evade interception.
It is one of the new ballistic missiles the North began testing in 2019 along with its apparent variant of Russia's Iskander, or KN-23, which it tested-fired again on Friday, and the super-large caliber multiple rocket launcher, which the U.S. military labels as the KN-25.
Regarding the North's series of missile launches, Boo Seung-chan, spokesperson of Seoul's defense ministry, said they pose a "direct and serious" military threat to the South.
But in a reassuring message, the South Korean military said it possesses capabilities to both detect and intercept the North's short-range missiles and has continuously been reinforcing its system to counter the security threats.
Watchers say the North will likely continue with the saber-rattling for the time being, now possibly involving the KN-25, which was last fired in March 2020.
Hours before the North launched two missiles from a train-based platform Friday, Pyongyang had warned in public of a "stronger and certain reaction" to new U.S. sanctions.
The Joe Biden administration announced fresh sanctions on six North Koreans involved in the regime's weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs on Wednesday following the North's consecutive launch of what it claims to be a hypersonic missile on Jan. 5 and 11.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang remain stalled since the Hanoi summit collapsed without a deal in February 2019.
The latest missiles flew about 380 kilometers at an altitude of 42 km within a four-minute interval, according to the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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