North fires at least three projectiles toward East Sea

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North fires at least three projectiles toward East Sea

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[YONHAP]

North Korea fired at least three unidentified short-range projectiles toward the East Sea Monday morning, South Korean military officials said, a week after it test-launched what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles following a three-month break.

The three projectiles were fired at around 7:36 a.m. from Sondok-ri in South Hamgyong Province in the country’s northeastern region and traveled around 200 kilometers (124 miles) to waters between South Korea and Japan after peaking at an altitude of 50 kilometers, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

The JCS initially said the North fired “three projectiles” but later changed its wording to “multiple short-range projectiles” after noticing what seemed to be a fourth flying object.

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said the “multiple projectiles” appeared not to have intruded into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

CNN, citing an unidentified American official, said the North fired “four unidentified projectiles.”

South Korean military officials said they were discussing the launches with their U.S. counterparts for further analysis, adding it appeared the regime carried out the test as part of an annual winter military drill, the same as last week’s test.

Pyongyang has yet to relay details about its latest test through its state media.

The Blue House convened a meeting at 8:15 a.m. Monday presided over by Chung Eui-yong, director of the National Security Office, and said the North’s test was “an action that does not help efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

When asked about the launches in the afternoon, a Blue House official told local reporters on the condition of anonymity that the presidential office had been “paying attention” to the fact that the North carried out a test last week and was also wary of a statement released by Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry last Saturday, implying they had anticipated another test.

On Saturday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced the United Nations Security Council for its condemnation of the regime’s weapons test last week and warned that such “reckless behavior” instigated by the United States could trigger “yet another momentous reaction” from Pyongyang.

The Blue House’s response on Monday was markedly dialed down from last week’s reaction, when it expressed “strong concern” about the North’s test and said it “urges” the North to “cease” such action.

Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, slammed the Blue House for that reaction in a scathing statement the next day.

Boiling tensions between the two countries cooled back down last Thursday when the Blue House announced Kim Jong-un sent a personal letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressing his sympathies for the South Korean public in their battle against the coronavirus outbreak.

A South Korean government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities have obtained information indicating the coronavirus was spreading within the North and causing a “significant” numbers of fatalities, though the regime insists they have zero infections.

North Korea’s previous test on March 2 was the first time Pyongyang conducted a weapons test this year.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEONG YONG-SOO AND LEE CHUL-JAE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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