(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in 6th para; TRIMS)
By Kang Yoon-seung and Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, May 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea Thursday, the South Korean military said, in its first major provocation since the launch of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launches from the Sunan area of Pyongyang at 6:29 p.m., and the missiles flew some 360 kilometers at a top altitude of about 90 km.
The launch, the North's 16th show of force this year, came despite speculation that the North may slow down its weapons tests as it reported its first COVID-19 case earlier in the day with the enforcement of the "maximum emergency" virus control system.
"The North's recent series of ballistic missile launches are serious provocations that undermine peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the international community," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters, urging Pyongyang to immediately stop them.
It added that the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis on the specifics of the launches.
The latest tests are presumed to have involved what the North call super-large multiple rocket launchers, with the rounds fired at intervals of around 20 seconds, according to an informed source.
Shortly after the launch, JCS Chairman Gen. Won In-choul held phone talks with Gen. Paul LaCamera, the chief of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, and reaffirmed their efforts to ensure a firm combined defense posture.
The North fired an apparent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Saturday and what was thought to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on May 4.
Yoon of the conservative People Power Party, meanwhile, was sworn in on Tuesday.
During his campaign, Yoon highlighted his tough stance on the North's military threats. But in his inauguration ceremony, he pledged to present an "audacious plan" to enhance the North Korean economy if the country embarks on a process to complete denuclearization.
Concerns have persisted that the North may carry out a nuclear test ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Seoul for his first in-person summit with Yoon slated for May 21.
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