North Korea yesterday fired what appeared to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, a day after the South postponed full deployment of a US anti-missile system designed to deter a North Korean attack.
The launches, the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying world pressure to rein in its weapons program, come less than a week after the UN Security Council passed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang.
South Korea on Wednesday said it would hold off on installing remaining components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that has angered North Korea’s main ally, China, amid early signs of easing tensions between Seoul and Beijing.
The missiles were launched yesterday morning from the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan and flew about 200km, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Under North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the nation has been conducting missile tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the continental US.
Compared with the different types of ballistic missiles Pyongyang has recently tested, the missiles launched yesterday were considered to be more defensive in nature, designed to defend against threats such as enemy warships.
North Korea unveiled a number of new weapons at a massive military parade on April 15 to mark the birth anniversary of the state’s founding leader and has since tested some of them.
“What appeared to be a new type of land-to-ship missile equipped with four launching canisters was unveiled at the parade,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “I think this might be what was used today.”
The launch was the fourth missile test by the North since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10 pledging to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang.
Moon said sanctions and pressure alone have failed to resolve the growing threat from the North’s advancing nuclear and missile program.
Moon had also promised to review the deployment of the THAAD system, a decision that was made by the government of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
On Wednesday, Moon’s office said installation of four additional launchers would be halted until an assessment of the system’s impact on the environment was completed.
Two launchers of the full six-launcher THAAD battery, as well as the system’s far-reaching radar that China worries could upset the regional security balance, have already been installed at a deployment site in the southeastern city of Seongju.
Those elements will stay in place, South Korea said.
The introduction of the THAAD system has sparked protests in South Korea and a backlash in China against South Korean business interests.
The Global Times, published by China’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial that no matter the outcome of the environmental study, South Korea’s announcement could reduce friction.
“Obviously, the pressure China puts on South Korea has taken effect. Seoul’s will has been shaken,” the Global Times said.
“However, attitude is not everything. Without solving the problem of THAAD, the pain it has brought to bilateral relations will not disappear, and South Korea must swallow some of the bitter results,” it said.
China should work with Russia on countermeasures to THAAD, the newspaper added.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington were analysing the launches for further information, officials said.
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around
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