North Korea launched back-to-back missiles off its east coast on the eve of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il Sung’s 108th birthday, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un and parliamentary elections in the South.
North Korean troops in Munchonto fired what were presumed to be cruise missiles, according to a statement by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. They flew roughly 93 miles off the coast, per a South Korean defense official.
The use of that type of projectile is unusual considering the country reportedly possesses just two known cruise missiles purposed for anti-ship operations, according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance. If confirmed, it would be the North’s first cruise missile launch since June 2017, per the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Later on Tuesday, North Korea launched fighter jets which fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles towards the same waters, the official added. Military drills had previously been scaled back in the North due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Some experts believe the tests were used to improve its position against South Korea while others said they were devoted to increasing unity within the county amid U.S. led sanctions during the virus outbreak.
North Korea has repeatedly said there has been no coronavirus outbreak on its soil. But many foreign experts are skeptical of that claim and have warned that a coronavirus outbreak in the North could become a humanitarian disaster because of the country’s chronic lack of medical supplies and fragile health care infrastructure.