North Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles for Second Time in a Week

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North Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles for Second Time in a Week

The missiles remain unidentified, but may be the KN23 short-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles for Second Time in a Week
Credit: Rodong Sinmun

North Korea launched two projectiles presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, South Korean authorities said. The missiles were launched from Kalma on the country’s eastern coast.

According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, a first missile was launched at 5:06 a.m. local time and was followed by a second 21 minutes later. Both missiles flew to a range of 250 kilometers with an approximate apogee of 30 kilometers, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. South Korean authorities have said that further analysis of the missile tests is ongoing.

“Successive missile launches by North Korea are not conducive to efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula and we call for a halt to these acts,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs said in a statement.

Wednesday’s tests come less than a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the testing of two short-range ballistic missiles last week off the Hodo Peninsula, a short distance from Kalma. The missiles tested, known by the U.S. intelligence community as the KN23, resemble the Russian 9K723 Iskander-M. A North Korean release claimed that the missiles conducted aeroballistic maneuvers to increase their ability to evade missile defenses.

Based on the flight profile of the latest launch, it is possible that the newly tested missiles are once again KN23s flying on a different trajectory. Given the characteristics of the missile, which is quasi-ballistic and capable of aerodynamically maneuvering within the earth’s atmosphere, it is possible that North Korea sought to test the missile’s characteristics on a shortened, depressed trajectory.

North Korea has previously used launch sites on and near the Hodo Peninsula to test coastal defense cruise missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, and other short-range, solid-fuel ballistic missiles.

Last week, North Korea said that it had conducted its latest missile launches in response to South Korea pushing ahead with the Dong Maeng 19-2 military exercises with the United States. The Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s externally directed state media, also cited South Korea’s introduction of advanced weaponry amid the ongoing diplomatic process. That was likely a reference to Seoul taking delivery of two U.S.-made F-35A Panther stealth fighters earlier in July.

Wednesday’s tests mark the third and fourth ballistic missiles to be tested since a June 30 summit meeting between U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un — their first meeting since the summit in Hanoi earlier this year, which ended without a U.S.-North Korea agreement.

In a statement following the June meeting, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Trump had promised Kim that upcoming U.S.-South Korea military exercises would be called off. The United States has not clarified the nature of Trump’s agreement with Kim beyond the fact that the two leaders agreed to resume working-level diplomatic talks.

In past years, North Korea has conducted ballistic missile launches leading up to and during major U.S.-South Korea exercises, which it regards as provocative. Last year, to facilitate the diplomatic process between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea, Seoul and Washington recalibrated and canceled multiple exercises.