North Korea on Saturday launched three short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, apparently as part of a military drill, South Korea’s defense ministry said. The tests were conducted in two sessions, two missiles were fired during the morning and one in the afternoon. A fourth missile was launched on Sunday. All missiles landed in the East Sea. Defense-Update reports.
The US and South Korean forces had been on heightened alert for a medium-range ballistic missile test in recent weeks amid tensions triggered by North Korea’s nuclear test in February.
A US defense official said last week that two North Korean Musudan medium-range missiles that had been primed for firing as tensions flared in the run-up to the North’s national celebrations on April 15 had been moved from their launch site. Musudan missiles have an estimated range of 2,500 to 4,000 km (1,500 to 2,500 miles), enough to reach South Korea and Japan and potentially US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.
The missiles fired today are thought to be modified anti-ship missile or the KN-02 surface-to-surface missile derived from the Soviet era SS-21 that has a range of about 120 km, sources in Seoul reported.
US and South Korean officials had been worried that any test of the medium-range missiles would trigger a fresh surge in tensions, which escalated after the North carried out a nuclear test in February. Seoul refrained from launching its Musudan missiles, maintaining its missiles on their launch positions for weeks. U.S. sources reported that Pyongyang has apparently called off the missiles recently.