North Korea has fired what are believed to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the military in the South said.
The projectiles were fired from North Pyongan province into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, without providing further details.
‘The military is monitoring for additional launches and maintaining readiness,’ it added.
North Korea has fired what are believed to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the military in the South said
Photos showed rockets in mid-air after they caused fireballs by being blasted out of their launchers.
The country’s leader Kim Jong-un was seen watching the launch on a grassy bank with a group of his generals.
Japan’s defence ministry said the North launched what appeared to be ‘ballistic missile-like object(s)’, adding there had been no indication of anything coming down in Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone.
Earlier this month, the nuclear-armed North carried out similar launches on two occasions – Pyongyang said they had conducted ‘long-range artillery’ drills, but Japan said the projectiles appeared to be ballistic missiles.
The latest launch comes amid a prolonged hiatus in disarmament talks with the United States.
The projectiles were fired from North Pyongan province into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, without providing further details. Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the missile launch
The North has been continuing to refine its weapons capabilities, analysts say, more than a year after a summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump broke down in Hanoi.
Shortly before the launch, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the country would convene its rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), on April 10 – despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Saturday’s launch came weeks after Kim sent a personal letter to the South’s President Moon, offering ‘comfort’ for the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The country had been the hardest-hit by the virus outside China. There have been 8,779 cases in the country, with 102 deaths.
However, Seoul appears to have largely brought the outbreak under control – while Pyongyang insists it has not had a single case.
The North’s claim that it has kept coronavirus entirely at bay has been treated with scepticism given that the virus originated in neighbouring China.
Japan’s defence ministry said the North launched what appeared to be ‘ballistic missile-like object(s)’, adding there had been no indication of anything coming down in Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone
China has had more than 3,200 deaths from the global pandemic and so experts said it was ‘impossible’ that North Korea has not had a case.
Kim Jung Un had claimed that a 30-day quarantine, a closed border and the suspension of trade with China had kept the nation free of coronavirus.
But Jung H. Pak, a former CIA expert on North Korea, said to Fox News, ‘It’s impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus.
Pak said the unrealistic brag from Un is likely his way of drawing attention away from North Korea’s economy, human rights violations and other criminal acts.
Leaders in North Korea’s largest city of Pyongyang claim the country has been able to stave off coronavirus infections by fighting for ‘national survival.’
Officials in North Korea said they found no coronavirus infections among the more than 5,400 people who were released from quarantine.
Earlier this month, the nuclear-armed North carried out similar launches on two occasions – Pyongyang said they had conducted ‘long-range artillery’ drills, but Japan said the projectiles appeared to be ballistic missiles
General Robert Abrams, a commander of U.S. Forces Korea, points to the low level of recent military activity in North Korea as one hint that coronavirus likely infected the country.
‘It is a closed-off nation, so we can’t say emphatically that they have cases, but we’re fairly certain they do,’ Abrams said.
He added, ‘What I do know is that their armed forces had been fundamentally in a lockdown for about 30 days and only recently have they started routine training again. As one example, they didn’t fly an airplane for 24 days.’
Some experts think North Korea’s massive malnourishment problem, which can weaken the immune systems of many of its citizens, could contribute to a massive spread of coronavirus.
But the country’s repressive regime, ironically enough, could help curb the spread of the disease, whatever the true number is.
‘There’s no human rights or social freedom concerns, there’s probably no concern for people starving to death,’ Thomas Byrne, president of the Korea Society, who teaches international affairs at Columbia University, told Bloomberg.
The latest launch comes amid a prolonged hiatus in disarmament talks with the United States
‘They can really enforce social distancing.’
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department has said the United States is worried about the susceptibility of the North Korean populace to widespread infections.
‘The United States is deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the North Korean people to a coronavirus outbreak,’ said Morgan Ortagus, department spokesperson.
South Korea, on the other hand, has been praised by other countries for its handling of coronavirus. The spread of the disease has steadily tampered off and is currently around 8,300 confirmed cases.
It has tested over a quarter of a million of its citizens for coronavirus, representing roughly one of every 200 South Koreans. In the hopes of getting the same results, the United States and other nations are looking to adopt similar testing methods.
As of Tuesday night, there were more than 197,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide with nearly 8,000 deaths.
Pyongyang is under multiple sets of sanctions by the United Nations and the United States over its weapons programmes.
The North carried out a series of weapons trials late last year, the last of them in November, which it often described as multiple launch rocket systems, although others called them ballistic missiles.
Heightened tensions in 2017 were followed by two years of nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington, including three meetings between Kim and Trump, but little tangible progress was made.