(ATTENTION: UPDATES on all analysis of the South Korean military, more details)
Por Song Sang-ho, Kang Yoon-seung y Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) — North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles east from an airfield in Pyongyang on Monday, the South Korean military said, in the recalcitrant regime’s fourth show of force. this year.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the projectiles fired from the Sunan airport at 8:50 am and 8:54 am, respectively, and that they flew about 380 kilometers at an altitude of 42 km.
The missiles traveled at a maximum speed of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, according to an informed source.
North Korea’s latest weapons test appears to be aimed at improving its ability to consecutively launch missiles with greater precision, a JCS official said on condition of anonymity.
“To obtain additional information, including the intentions behind North Korea’s recent series of short-range ballistic missile launches, South Korean and US intelligence authorities are conducting a detailed analysis,” the official told reporters. journalists.
The official added that the South Korean military possesses capabilities to both detect and intercept the projectiles in question, and has been continuously beefing up its system to respond to them.
As for the type of missile launched on Monday, the JCS is looking at “several possibilities,” including the projectile being the KN-23 inspired by Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic missile, according to the official.
The KN-23 missile is known to employ a so-called pull-up maneuver, a technique designed to avoid interception and thus complicate South Korea’s missile defense efforts.
Monday’s launch came just three days after North Korea launched two suspected short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea that it later claimed were guided missiles fired by a railway regiment during a firing drill.
Shortly after the latest launch, South Korea’s presidential National Security Council held an emergency meeting, calling the North’s continued weapons tests “very regrettable.”
Separately, the Seoul Unification Ministry urged the North to restart dialogue instead of launching missiles with the aim of achieving peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the “ballistic missile launches” but assessed that the latest event “does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory or to Our Allies”.
“These missile launches highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” he said in a press release, referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The United States’ commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains steadfast.”
Monday’s firing from Pyongyang appears to underscore the North’s evolving capabilities to launch missiles from various platforms, including trains, underground assets and ground-based facilities.
Last week, the North warned of a “stronger and safer reaction” to the recent US imposition of new sanctions on six North Koreans involved in the regime’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
The warning was followed by the North’s test launch of two projectiles from a train platform on Friday.
North Korea also tested its self-proclaimed hypersonic missile on January 5 and Tuesday last week, ratcheting up tensions amid a deadlock in nuclear negotiations with the US.