July 26, 2019 10:55
North Korea launched two new short-range missiles from Wonsan, Kangwon Province in the small hours of Thursday.
The first missile flew 430 km and was presumed to be the same Iskander type that the North fired in May. But the second flew much farther, or about 690 km, leaving observers wondering whether it was a completely new type.
The South Korean military kept track of the trajectory of the second missile but lost it at around 430 km and had to rely on U.S. reconnaissance to correct its assessment. This triggered alarms that the North may have succeeded in developing a new type of missile with improved capacity to avoid detection and interception.
The latest launch came 77 days after the North fired a short-range ballistic missile on May 9.
The second missile flew at a far lower altitude than earlier missiles. The regime now has the capability to strike anywhere in South Korea, including Jeju Island, avoiding South Korea's missile defenses.
"We presume that the two unidentified projectiles the North fired at 5:34 a.m. and 5:57 a.m. [on Thursday] are short-range missiles," a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said. "Both seem to have flown at an altitude of some 50 km and fallen into the East Sea."
"We need further analysis to find out whether both missiles are of the same type," another military spokesman said.
It was the North's third missile test since the collapse of the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February. On May 4 and 9, Pyongyang test-launched two Iskander missiles, but South Korea and the U.S. downplayed their significance.
"North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] will keep his promise to me," Trump said during his visit to Japan and Korea in late June. "These are missiles that practically every country tests. I mean... we don't consider that a missile test."
This appears to have emboldened the North to keep bolstering its short-range missile arsenal.
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