North Korea test fires short-range projectiles, South Korean officials say


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during rocket launch on Wednesday, December 12, 2012.

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North Korea test fired several short-range projectiles Saturday morning from the country’s eastern coast, according to South Korean officials.

The projectiles flew 43 to 125 miles before crashing into the sea, officials said, adding that both South Korean and US authorities were analyzing details for further insight.

“At present, our military has intensified surveillance and vigilance to prepare for North Korea’s additional launches,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding that Seoul and Washington were “working closely together and maintaining their full preparedness.”

An earlier statement from South Korea’s Defense Ministry said a “missile” had been fired.

It comes a few weeks after North Korea said it conducted a tactical guided weapons firing test, according to state media. In a report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), leader Kim Jong Un praised that test as a “great historic event in strengthening the combat capability of the People’s Army.”

North Korea’s missile program made major strides in 2017, with Pyongyang saying it successfully test-fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles. Experts said the Hwasong-15, which was launched in late November, can likely hit much of the United States.

The projectiles fired on Saturday appear to be much smaller however. Analysts say they’d unlikely to fall within the category of weapons that Pyongyang had promised Washington to stop testing as part of negotiations over denuclearization.

“With North Korea never promising to completely stop all missile testing — it only promised a self-imposed moratorium of testing long-range missiles such as ICBMs that can hit the US homeland — we should not be shocked by North Korea’s short-range launch,” said Harry J. Kazianis, Korean studies director at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.

“Clearly, Pyongyang is frustrated with the conclusion of the recent summit with Washington in Vietnam that did not produce any breakthrough. It also seems clear that North Korea is angry over what appears to be a lack of flexibility in the Trump Administration’s position on relieving sanctions, sticking to a policy of ‘maximum pressure’.”

Kazianis added that it appeared Kim “has decided to remind the world — and specifically the United States — that his weapons capabilities are growing by the day. My fear is that we are at the beginning stages of a slide back to the days of nuclear war threats and personal insults, a dangerous cycle of spiking tensions that must be avoided at all costs.”

A senior US administration official told CNN that national security adviser John Bolton had briefed President Trump on the apparent missile launch. Separately, a Pentagon spokesman said they were “aware of the reports and continue to monitor the situation.”

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