N.Korea Marks Armistice with Missile Launch

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea on Saturday night, a day before the 61st anniversary of the armistice that halted the Korean War.

Leader Kim Jong-un gave "on-the-spot guidance" for the missile launch, according to the official [North] Korean Central News Agency. The Army rocket unit, "which is tasked with striking bases of the U.S. Forces in South Korea, participated in the firing drill staged a day before the armistice anniversary," KCNA added.

The drill aimed at practicing to "strike and annihilate" the USFK bases, it said.

A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff here said the missile was fired from Jangsangot, Hwanghae Province in a northeasterly direction and flew for about 500 km before falling into open seas off North Hamgyong Province.

Jangsangot is only 11 km from the Northern Limit Line, the de-facto maritime border, in the West Sea and about 100 km north of the demilitarized zone.

The North secretly moved a "transporter erector launcher" from a missile base to the area.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un directs a rocket launch in Jangsangot, Hwanghae Province on Saturday, in this undated photo released by Rodong Sinmun on Sunday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un directs a rocket launch in Jangsangot, Hwanghae Province on Saturday, in this undated photo released by Rodong Sinmun on Sunday.

The missile is presumed to be a Scud-D, an improved version of the Scud-C with a range of 500 km, or a Scud-ER with a range of 700 to 900 km.

Military authorities here believe the North's show of force aimed at putting pressure on the U.S., the UN and South Korea on the eve of the anniversary.

Key USFK bases are located in Dongducheon, Osan, Pyeongtaek, Uijeongbu and Yongsan, most of them within 120 km of the DMZ.

The North apparently chose mainly periods of lax surveillance like early mornings or weekends for its recent string of missile and rocket launches.

The North fired ballistic missiles on seven occasions from Feb. 27 until Saturday, five times in the early morning, twice at night, and three times on Saturday or Sunday.

South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities again failed to spot the preparation on Saturday and were taken by surprise.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 28, 2014 12:03 KST