North Korea launches salvo of anti-ship missiles

Firing is North Korea’s 10th rocket launch this year despite international criticism

A South Korean man watches a news broadcast on North Korea’s recent medium-range ballistic missile launch at a station in Seoul, South Korea, on May 22nd.  Photograph:  Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

A South Korean man watches a news broadcast on North Korea’s recent medium-range ballistic missile launch at a station in Seoul, South Korea, on May 22nd. Photograph: Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

 

North Korea has launched a salvo of surface-to-ship missiles from its east coast, which flew 200km before dropping into the sea, the South Korean military said.

It’s the 10th missile test this year by North Korea and the fifth missile launch since liberal Moon Jae-in took office in South Korea early May.

The launch took place just days after the United Nations Security Council expanded sanctions against Pyongyang over previous missile tests, imposing targeted sanctions on certain North Korean officials and state entities.

The launch also defies efforts by Mr Moon to improve relations with the South and ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

On Wednesday, Mr Moon ordered a delay in the deployment of the controversial Thaad anti-missile defence system, which was installed to combat growing aggression from Pyongyang.

“North Korea fired several unidentified projectiles, assumed to be surface-to-ship cruise missiles, this morning in the direction of the East Sea from the vicinity of Wonsan, Gangwon Province,” South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff (JCS) said, quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

The authorities said the South’s military has beefed up surveillance and vigilance against “the possibility of additional provocations, maintaining full preparedness”.

While not all of this year’s launches have been successful, there is growing unease in the region, and increasingly in the US, that Pyongyang is making progress in its plan to put a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The US has staged joint drills with South Korea, as well as Japan, to boost its presence in the region, moves that have angered the North Koreans.

Late last month, North Korea fired a Scud-type ballistic missile from Wonsan which experts say can be used against both ships and ground targets.

JCS spokesman Colonel Roh Jae-cheon said the launches started at about 6.18am and continued for minutes, flying at a maximum altitude of about 2km. The number of missiles fired is believed to be four.

Mr Roh said he believed the North was “showing off its capability with various types of missiles and demonstrating its anti-ship precision-strike ability in connection with joint maritime drills involving US aircraft carrier strike groups.”

The cruise missile firing does not violate UN Security Council resolutions against the North, which ban launches using ballistic missile technology, Yonhap said.