North Korea test fired two-short range missiles off its eastern coast mere days after the rogue nation launched four missiles as annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the US began last week.
A spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry said that it had detected four missiles from North Korea last Thursday. The short-range missiles were deliberately fired into the sea, and had not targeted South Korean or other vessels.
The defense ministry in Seoul said it was on high alert following the second launch and monitoring the situation. The weapons launched were Scud missiles with an estimated range capability of 500 kilometers, twice that of those launched last week.
Seoul urged the North to cease all testing immediately and said it would consider calling for sanctions.
“The North is taking a double-faced stance by making conciliatory gestures on one hand and pushing ahead with reckless provocation on the other,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok.
Officials said the test fires appeared to be the reclusive nation’s ominous response ahead of two South Korean-US military drills, which North Korea routinely denounces as a preparation of war.
“We believe that the North is testing various ballistic missiles with various ranges as a show of force to threaten us,” Kim told AFP.
The missile launches were reminiscent of Pyongyang’s warlike rhetoric last year, which included threats of preemptive nuclear strikes against the US and South Korea and the declaration that the Korean War armistice is null and void.
Foreign policy experts, however, said the latest test firings may not herald a repeat of North Korean nuclear threats amid thawing tensions in the Korean peninsula.
It also coincides with the end of the first reunion for more than three years of families divided by the Korean War – a rare concession between the estranged neighbors and raised hopes of greater cross-border cooperation.
As the drills approached, there were fears North Korea might cancel the event after demanding the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunions finished.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image of S Korean protestors: Woohae CHO/Flickr