Speaking in Singapore during the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference on defense issues, South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo offered an assessment of North Korea’s May 2019 tests of multiple short-range ballistic missiles.
Asked by The Diplomat whether the missile tests had violated the September 19, 2018, inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement, Jeong ruled out any concern, saying that “the North Koreans are in fact acting within the boundaries of the CMA.”
Jeong noted that South Korea was continuing its analysis of the missiles that North Korea launched, observing that they resembled the Russian-made Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile.
The South Korean defense minister nonetheless noted that “to raise military tension is not the way to go forward with this process of peace,” referring to the inter-Korean diplomatic process that began last year.
On May 4, North Korea launched multiple long-range artillery rockets along with a new ballistic missile first seen at its February 8, 2018, military parade near the eastern coastal city of Wonsan. That missile flew to a range of 240 kilometers.
On May 9, the North carried out a similar launch of two of the same missiles from near the city of Kusong. One missile flew to a range of 420 kilometers and the other to a range 270 kilometers.
Together, the two launches were the first since the November 2017 launch of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental-range ballistic missile. North Korea has not publicized the name of the new short-range missile, but the U.S. intelligence community calls the missile the KN23.
Signed between the two Koreas during the September 2019 summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the agreement represents the most detailed agreement between the two Koreas to reduce hostilities between them.
The Pyongyang summit was the third meeting between Moon and Kim, following an initial summit meeting on April 27, 2018, at the Panmunjom Joint Security Area along the Military Demarcation Line that separates the two Koreas, and a second summit the next month.
The first article of the inter-Korean CMA notes that “South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea that are the source of military tension and conflict.”
The text of the agreement adds that the two Koreas would “have consultations on matters including large-scale military exercises and military buildup aimed at each other, various forms of blockade, interdiction and obstruction of navigation as well as reconnaissance activities against each other.”
The Moon administration has described the implementation of the agreement as successful. Jeong, in Singapore, said that “North Korea across all domains – air, land and sea – is in accordance to the CMA.”