North fires two more missiles, JCS reacts a day later
North Korea fired two suspected cruise missiles from an inland area Tuesday in its fifth such test this year, South Korean military officials said Wednesday.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) acknowledged the launches in a press briefing convened a day after they took place, only after media outlets had already reported their occurrence.
A military official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the missiles were launched from an inland area, without specifying where, and landed in the eastern waters off the Korean Peninsula.
"We still need to conduct a detailed analysis," the military official said at the briefing.
The official assured, however, should North Korea launch a missile southward, “our detection and interception systems will have no problem countering it.”
While the JCS said that it could not make public the exact launch site, range or other details of the cruise missiles in order to guard the surveillance capabilities of the United States and South Korea, the late acknowledgement of the tests — as well as the fact that South Korea military authorities called the briefing after media reports — suggests that the military failed to detect the launches at the time.
North Korean state media have not yet issued a report on Tuesday’s cruise missile tests.
The North’s last known test of a cruise missile took place in September last year, when state media crowed about a “new-type long-range cruise missile,” which it described as a “strategic weapon of great significance.”
At the time, the reclusive regime's Korean Central New Agency (KCNA) said the cruise missiles tested flew 1,500 kilometers (932 miles).
The news agency's report made no secret of Pyongyang's target audience in conducting the tests — the United States and South Korea — as it described the missiles as a "core project" and "special interest" of the North's ruling Workers' Party.
“[The missiles] have special significance as it represents another effective deterrent to ensure the safety of our country and strongly suppress the anti-Republican military agitation,” the agency said.
North Korea’s September tests of cruise missiles left South Korean officials in shock over their failure to detect them, before or even immediately after the fact. That previous failure heightens speculation that military authorities again failed to detect the cruise missile tests that took place on Tuesday.
Cruise missile tests do not violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, which do forbid the North from launching projectiles that make use of ballistic missile technology.
Much to the alarm of South Korea and neighboring Japan, North Korea has now conducted five missile tests in quick succession since the new year, beginning with two separate tests of what it claimed were hypersonic glide missiles on Jan. 5 and 10, followed by a test of train-launched missiles Jan. 14 and a tactical guided missile test from Sunan Airfield near Pyongyang on Jan. 17.
Through its state media, Pyongyang also suggested on Jan. 20 it was considering re-starting “previously suspended activities” — a statement widely interpreted as an end to its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, which has been in place since 2017.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]