While the world battle the spread of coronavirus and the race for cure to save humanity North Korea has launched two unidentified projectiles, South Korea’s military says, in its first apparent weapons test of the year.
Little is known about the projectiles, except that they were launched from the North’s east coast towards the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
North Korea has historically stepped up missile testing in the spring. Last May saw the first missile tests after an 18-month freeze. As the year progressed, many more followed. “The military is monitoring for additional launches and maintaining readiness,” said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The tests come just days after South Korea and the US announced they were postponing the annual joint drills that anger the North, amid concern over the coronavirus.
Leif Eric-Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the tests seemed to be “less provocative than North Korea is capable of”. But the country is still “making it clear it will continue to improve military capabilities and make out-sized demands”.
Prof Easley added: “The US and South Korea postponing their drills and offering humanitarian assistance has earned no goodwill from a Kim regime that sees little benefit in restarting diplomacy.”
At the start of the year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was ending the suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests as talks between the US and North Korea ground to a halt. The North Korean leader threatened that the world would “witness a new strategic weapon… in the near future”.
The last time North Korea conducted a missile test was in November 2019 – when it said it was testing a “super-large multiple-rocket launcher”.
But Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accused the North of launching ballistic missiles, earning him scorn from North Korean state media who called him an “imbecile”.
North Korea is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions. It has in the past fired missiles that it claims are capable of reaching the US mainland.
Talks between the US and North Korea about its nuclear programme remain stalled.