August 01, 2019 10:47
North Korea fired two more missiles into the East Sea on Wednesday, apparently emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump's nonchalant response to last week's tests.
A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staffs said the missiles were probably of the same Iskander type as the ones fired last week and fired again from Wonsan in Kangwon Province.
According to the JCS, they were launched in the early morning and flew around 250 km, reaching an altitude of about 30 km, 20 km lower than last Thursday's.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong-un "guided a test-fire of a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system."
Experts said the North was trying to show the capability of its missiles to fly at low altitudes to evade interception. Iskander missiles fly at a speed of Mach 6 to 7 during descent. If they travel at an altitude of only 30 km, Patriot missiles are the only weapons capable of intercepting them, but they only reach a maximum speed of Mach 4 to 5.
The U.S.' Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery can only intercept missiles flying at an altitude of more than 40 km. Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense Security Forum said, "The lower the altitude of missiles, the more slowly radars detect them. This reduces the time we have to intercept them."
The fresh launch comes ahead of South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises which North Korea has taken exception to.
"North Korea typically conducts missile tests when the weather conditions is good, but the skies over Wonsan were overcast with chances of rain on Wednesday," a military source said. That suggests the North was making a point. But U.S. broadcaster NBC quoted multiple government officials as saying that the latest missiles were short range projectiles that "did not pose a threat to the U.S. or its allies."
Trump earlier downplayed last week's missile launches saying the North's warning was only aimed at South Korea and the two Koreas have "have their disputes... for a long time."
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