March 30, 2020 13:06
South Korea on Sunday reacted angrily to yet another North Korean missile test, the fourth in as many weeks, as the coronavirus epidemic paralyzes life around the globe.
The North fired two presumed short-range ballistic missiles from Wonsan, Kangwon Province into the East Sea around 6:10 a.m. Sunday.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff here said, "In a situation where the entire world is experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19, this kind of military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate halt."
"Last year, the North fired a record number of 25 missiles," a military spokesman here told reporters. "They began firing missiles in May last year but this year they've been firing them since early March. It looks like they’re determined to break their own record."
Ballistic missile launches violate UN Security Council resolutions and are also in conflict with the inter-Korean military agreement of September 2018.
Cheong Wa Dae said, "An emergency video conference was chaired by national security adviser Chung Eui-yong around 7 a.m. [Sunday]."
The last time Cheong Wa Dae expressed "strong regret," when the North launched projectiles on March 2, it immediately met with a barrage of hysterical rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Yo-jong.
Cheong Wa Dae did not comment on the North's next two missile provocations -- another two projectiles fired on March 9 and Army Tactical Missile System-style missiles on March 21. They all have a range of 400 to 600 km capable of targeting the South.
"Neither the Trump administration nor the Moon government is putting the brakes on the North's launches of short-range missiles," said Prof. Park Won-gon of Handong Global University. "It's natural for the North to hurry up to complete weapons development by taking advantage of this golden opportunity."
This would be the most missiles ever fired in a single month by North Korea, according to Shea Cotton of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "Coming this early in the year, the only time we've seen tests this frequently were in 2016 and 2017, both of which were huge years for North Korea's missile program," Cotton tweeted.
Military authorities here believed that the latest missiles took off just 20 seconds apart and their flight distance and altitude were similar to those of the projectiles launched on March 2.
"It seems that the North has judged that they've already succeeded in shortening the firing interval," the military spokesman said. "It's highly likely that the North tested the latest missiles to improve accuracy."
But other observers speculate that they were either a new large-caliber rocket the regime unveiled between late July and early August last year or an ATACMS.
Shin Jong-woo at the Korea Defense and Security Forum said, "These weapons seem to be aimed at entire South Korea to incapacitate its ballistic missile intercept system by flying at a low altitude."
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