(ATTENTION: UPDATES throughout the text with JCS explanation; UPDATED title, heading)
By Song Sang-ho and Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) — North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) into the East Sea on Sunday, the South Korean military said, raising fears that Pyongyang has advanced slowly toward his threat to lift a self-imposed moratorium. on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the missile, fired at a steep angle from Mupyong-ri in northern Jagang province, at 7:52 a.m., and flew some 800 kilometers at an altitude maximum of 2,000 km.
Shortly after the launch of North Korea’s seventh projectile this year, JCS Chairman General Won In-choul and General Paul LaCamera, commander of the South Korea-US Combined Forces. The US held telephone conversations and reaffirmed the “firm” defense posture of the allies. according to the JSC.
“Our military is tracking and monitoring North Korea-related movements and maintaining a posture of readiness,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
Pyongyang has been ratcheting up tensions with a series of missile launches since early this year as Washington has ratcheted up sanctions pressure amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear talks between the two countries.
North Korea launched the most monthly projectile launches in January since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took power in late 2011. It launched six projectile launches in both March and July 2014.
North Korea fired what it says are surface-to-surface tactical guided missiles on Thursday, just two days after its apparent long-range cruise missile test.
It carried out four other launches earlier this month, including those of what it claimed to be hypersonic missiles.
The South Korean military has been closely monitoring North Korea’s military moves as the North made a thinly veiled threat to lift its years-long moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
The North’s recent saber rattling attacks also come as it seeks to bolster internal unity amid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and lingering economic problems stemming from debilitating sanctions.