Seoul, Feb 20 (IANS) North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) toward the East Sea on Monday, a day after South Korea and the US staged joint air drills, involving B-1B bombers.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from the Sukchon area in South Pyongan Province between 7 a.m. and 7:11 a.m., and that the missiles flew some 390 km and 340 km, respectively, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Hours after the launch, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the artillery unit of the Korean People’s Army fired two shots from the 600-mm multiple rocket launcher during firing drills, and that they flew 395 km and 337 km, respectively.
The weapon system is a “tactical nuclear attack means boasting of the great might powerful enough to assign only one multiple rocket launcher with four shells so as to destroy an enemy operational airfield”, the KCNA said.
In a ceremony to “present” the 600-mm rocket launcher at a key party meeting in late December, the country’s leader Kim Jong-un called it an “offensive weapon” capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads that could put all of South Korea within its range.
Some observers here noted that given their flight distance, the rockets fired Monday can reach a South Korean air base in Cheongju known to be home to the South’s F-35A stealth fighters.
Cheongju is located 112 km south of Seoul.
The South’s military “strongly” condemned the North’s latest missile launches as an act of “significant provocation” that harms peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but also in the international community.
It also called the provocation a “clear” violation of UN Security Council resolutions and urged the North to immediately stop such provocative acts.
“Our military will ensure a firm response posture based on security cooperation among the South, the US and Japan, and maintain a firm readiness posture based on capabilities to respond overwhelmingly to any North Korean provocations,” the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
On Sunday, the allies carried out the air drills, involving the US bombers and South Korean F-35A stealth jets, as the North launched what it claimed to be a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the previous day.