North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles, according to South Korea’s military, the latest in a recent flurry of weapons tests that took place days after a joint air drill by the South and the United States.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Friday the missiles were launched at 07:32 GMT from the Sunan area of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, towards the sea off its east coast.
“Our military maintains a full readiness posture while closely cooperating with the US while strengthening surveillance and vigilance,” it said in a statement.
There was no immediate statement by North Korea on the launch, which came three days after the US flew nuclear-capable bombers and advanced stealth jets near the Korean Peninsula for joint training with South Korean fighter jets.
North Korea typically views such military exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion.
The US and South Korea have warned for months that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.
Despite heavy international sanctions over its weapons programmes, North Korea in recent months has test-fired a barrage of ballistic missiles. These included the launch of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month, the test of what it says was a new rocket engine last week, and claims this week it has developed new capabilities to take images from space.
Friday’s launch came hours after the White House said North Korea had delivered arms to the Russian private military group Wagner, whose mercenaries have been fighting in Ukraine.
Disclosing the delivery on Thursday US time, the White House called Wagner a “rival” for power to the defence and other ministries in the Kremlin.
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean foreign ministry denied conducting any arms transaction with Russia, saying the story was “cooked up by some dishonest forces for different purposes”.
Leader Kim Jong Un said this year that he wants North Korea to have the world’s most powerful nuclear force, and declared his country an “irreversible” nuclear state.
The wishlist he revealed last year included solid-fuel ICBMs that could be launched from land or submarines.
Last week, North Korea tested a “high-thrust solid-fuel motor”, with state media describing it as an important test “for the development of another new-type strategic weapon system”.
All its known ICBMs are liquid-fuelled, and Kim has placed strategic priority on developing solid-fuel engines for more advanced missiles.
The latest motor test was a step towards that goal, but it is not clear how far North Korea has come in the development of such a missile, analysts said. (AlJazeera)