North Korea fires barrage of missiles from ground and air

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — A barrage of North Korean missiles fired from both the ground and fighter jets splashed down on the waters off the country’s east coast yesterday, South Korea’s military said, a major show of force on the eve of a key state anniversary in the North and parliamentary elections in the rival South.

The back-to-back launches were the most high-profile among a series of weapons tests that North Korea has conducted recently amid stalled nuclear talks and outside worries about a possible coronavirus outbreak in the country.

North Korean troops based in the eastern coastal city of Munchon first launched several projectiles – presumed to be cruise missiles – yesterday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The weapons flew more than 150 kilometres off the North’s east coast, a South Korean defence official said. If confirmed, it would be the North’s first cruise missile launch since June 2017, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

Later in the day, North Korea launched several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters, the defence official said.

The official said North Korea has recently appeared to be resuming its military drills that it had scaled back due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. He said other North Korean fighter jets also flew on patrol near the border with China yesterday.

In recent weeks, North Korea has test-launched a variety of missiles and other weapons amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the US.

Yesterday’s launches came a day before North Korea marks the 108th birthday of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. They also came a day ahead of South Korean Parliamentary elections.

It’s unusual for North Korea to launch cruise missiles. Most of the weapons it had tested recently were ballistic missiles or long-range artillery shells.

People watch a TV screen showing a news programme reporting about North Korea’s missiles with a file image at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: AP