Seoul / AFP
North Korea on Monday fired five short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast—the latest in a series of launches ordered by leader Kim Jong-un amid rising military tensions.
They came just days after the North test-fired two medium-range missiles in what the UN Security Council described as an “unacceptable” violation of UN resolutions. Tensions have been soaring on the divided Korean peninsula since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The Security Council responded earlier this month by imposing its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date.
In recent weeks Pyongyang has maintained a daily barrage of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington, ostensibly over continuing large-scale South Korea-US military drills that the North sees as provocative rehearsals for invasion.
An official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the five short-range missiles were launched from near the eastern city of Hamhung, beginning just before 3:20pm, and landed in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). He said analysts were still gathering intelligence on the precise missile type.
The North had fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea on March 10, using what state media described as a new high-calibre multiple rocket launcher. Existing UN sanctions ban North Korea from conducting any ballistic missile test, although short-range launches tend to go unpunished.
Last Friday the North upped the ante by test-firing two medium-range missiles, which were seen as far more provocative given the threat they pose to neighbours like Japan. They were the first medium-range launches for two years and followed an order from Kim Jong-Un for his military to prepare a series of missile launches as well as an eventual nuclear warhead explosion test.