(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 8-10)
By Song Sang-ho and Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired two apparent short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea on Thursday, South Korea's military said, in Pyongyang's sixth such launch this year.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launches from in and around Hamhung, a city on its east coast, at around 8 a.m. and 8:05 a.m., respectively, and they flew about 190 kilometers at a top altitude of 20 km.
"For more details, the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
The South Korean military is keeping close tabs on related North Korean movements and maintaining a readiness posture, the JCS added.
As to the type of missiles fired Thursday, the military authorities are looking into "all possibilities," including them being multiple rocket launchers, a military official here said, requesting anonymity.
In the latest launch, the North is presumed to have set a target on Al Island, an uninhabited island off the North's east coast, the official said.
Apparently mindful of public security concerns, the official stressed the military can both detect and intercept the North's short-range projectiles should they be fired toward the South.
South Korea's presidential National Security Council (NSC) held an emergency meeting and called the North's latest launch "very regrettable."
In a press release, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the "ballistic missile launches" but assessed the launch "does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory or to our allies."
"The recent series of DPRK ballistic missile tests highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program," it said, referring to the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang apparently test-fired at least two cruise missiles from an inland area Tuesday following four reported rounds of weapons tests, including hypersonic missile launches on Jan. 5 and 11.
It also tested the KN-23 missile -- modeled after Russia's Iskander ballistic missile -- on Jan. 14 and its own version of the U.S.' Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), called the KN-24, three days later.
The recent bouts of the North's saber-rattling came as the United States has been stepping up sanctions pressure amid a protracted deadlock in its nuclear negotiations with the recalcitrant regime.
Last Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the North's missile launches this month during their virtual summit, the White House has said, though U.S. officials have continued to signal openness for dialogue.
A day ahead of the summit, a defiant Pyongyang made a thinly-veiled threat to lift its yearslong moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, sparking speculation it would engage in more provocative actions down the road.
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