North Korea says the two new short-range ballistic missiles it launched Thursday toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, were intended to send a warning to South Korea.
According to North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the launches were “personally organized” by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “as part of the power demonstration to send a solemn warning to the South Korean military.”
Kim Jong Un said he was “gratified” by the performance of the “tactical guided weapon system,” which came amid what appears to be another impasse in the nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the United States.
Though US President Donald Trump and Kim agreed to resume working-level negotiations after their meeting last month, the two sides have not publicly announced any scheduled talks.
The North Korean leader criticized South Korea’s decision to hold joint military exercises with the United States next month, and acquire “ultra-modern offensive weapons,” according to KCNA report published Friday.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced on July 16 that two F-35A stealth fighters had arrived in the country from the US. Seoul currently has four F-35s but plans to acquire 40 by 2021. Experts say the Kim regime is concerned by South Korea’s decision acquire the F-35 stealth fighters, which could be capable of evading North Korean radars.
KCNA reported Friday that Kim considered South Korea’s military maneuvers to be “suicidal” acts that could torpedo the recent diplomatic progress between the two sides. He also cautioned President Moon Jae-in to heed “the warning from Pyongyang.”
North Korea has long-viewed the annual joint military drills between South Korea and the United States with hostility. To ease tensions with Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington have recently suspended or scaled back a number of joint exercises. Next month’s drills will likely consist of mostly computer simulations.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on July 16 calling the upcoming military exercises a “rehearsal for war.”
A new type of threat
South Korea has already said that it views the launch as a “military threat” designed to undermine progress toward stability on the Korean Peninsula.
On Thursday, South Korea’s National Security Council’s standing committee concluded the launches had involved “a new type of short-range ballistic missile,” suggesting that the isolated country has been actively developing its military capabilities.
US Army Col. Lee Peters, a spokesman for the Combined Forces Command that integrates US and South Korean forces, said Washington also concluded that a new type of weapon was fired.
The Kim regime said North Korea would stop testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles during negotiations with Washington, but has not given any assurances regarding other weapons. Still, the tests are a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which bar North Korea from testing and launching ballistic missiles.
South Korea’s presidential office said late Thursday it would make a “final assessment” on the launch after analyzing with the information with the US.