North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles as part of a demonstration drill aimed at sub-military units, according to the country’s state media. The missiles, described as medium-range systems, were launched by a missile unit in Jangyon in South Hwanghae province on Tuesday. South Korea’s military confirmed that the North had fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea from the same area. Pyongyang claims that the missiles hit a pre-set target on an islet off its east coast after travelling approximately 611 km.
Photos released by the state media appear to show KN-23 missiles, North Korea’s version of the Russian Iskander, being launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL). The country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that it would “surely annihilate the enemy” in the event of military conflict, and would intensify fire assault training. The North recently fired what it claimed to be two “strategic cruise missiles” from a submarine, and conducted a “fire assault drill” three days before the latest launch.
North Korea has accused Seoul and Washington of rehearsing for an invasion against the country, and has threatened to take “overwhelming” action against military activities by its allies. The launches follow the beginning of joint military exercises by South Korea and the US. The North’s actions are likely to heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as well as jeopardising ongoing efforts by South Korea to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang.
The launches also breach a United Nations resolution that bans North Korea from developing ballistic missile technology. The country has conducted similar tests several times over the past few months, despite repeated warnings from the US and its allies. The launches come at a time of growing concern over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The country recently said it had successfully tested a new long-range cruise missile, which experts said could be used to carry nuclear warheads.
The latest missile launches have sparked international condemnation, with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga describing the tests as “outrageous” and a “threat” to regional peace and stability. The US State Department said it was “aware” of the launches and would continue to monitor the situation closely. The US military has previously warned that North Korea’s weapons programme poses a “serious threat” to global security.