North Korea has fired two unidentified short-range projectiles from an area near the coastal city of Wonsan into waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s military said Monday. The objects were estimated to have a flight distance of 240 kilometers (149 miles) and altitude of 35 kilometers (22 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding the projectiles are likely part of North Korea’s combined military drills.
The drills began on Friday, the one-year anniversary of leader Kim Jong Un’s summit in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump that ended without a deal. North Korean state media reported that Kim presided over the exercise, which was intended to “judge the mobility and the fire power strike ability of the defense units.”
If this was a missile test, it would be Pyongyang’s first of 2020. Last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would continue to “steadily develop” nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them unless Washington changes course and abandons what Pyongyang calls its “hostile policy.” Weapons experts say test-firing missiles is an important part of improving their accuracy and reliability.
Though weapons tests are important for development purposes, North Korea’s military moves are often timed for maximum political impact both at home and abroad.
The US and South Korea chose to postpone military exercises due to the Novel coronavirus outbreak. These drills usually draw the ire of North Korea. “The US and South Korea postponing their defense drills and offering humanitarian assistance has thus earned no goodwill from a Kim regime that sees little benefit in restarting diplomacy,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said in email. “Pyongyang instead appears intent on raising the stakes before South Korea’s April elections and before the ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries of the US presidential campaign,” Easley said.