Flashpoints | Security | East Asia

North Korea Launches 3 Unknown Projectiles Into Sea of Japan

Three projectiles were launched from near the town of Sondok and into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea Launches 3 Unknown Projectiles Into Sea of Japan
Credit: Rodong Sinmun

On Monday morning, North Korea launched three unidentified projectiles into the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The launches marked the second such event in 2020 and come days after an initial launch of two large-caliber multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) missiles during a drill near the east coast city of Wonsan.

“Our military this morning detected three unidentified projectiles fired from Sondok near North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province, in the Northeast direction towards the East Sea,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs announced on Monday. A launch of what North Korea has dubbed a “super large-caliber” MLRS system—known to United States intelligence as the KN25—last took place from Sondok in August 2019. The launch then took place from a military airfield at the city.

“Our military is maintaining readiness posture while tracking and monitoring the relevant movement in preparation for any additional launch,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs added.

Monday’s launch comes shortly after North Korean state media condemned the reaction to its recent launches by several European Union states. A North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement released over the weekend said that a “grave response” would follow. Pyongyang criticized what it said was an unfair condemnation of its ordinary “military training.”

North Korea similarly took exception last year when the United Nations Security Council met to discuss one of its MLRS launches. It also criticized the government of Japan for criticizing such launches. Under United Nations Security Council resolution 1718, North Korea is prohibited from launching any ballistic missiles; Pyongyang insists that even large-caliber systems like the 600 mm KN25 are an extension of conventional artillery rockets.

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“As the world all knows, Britain, France, and Germany since May 2019 have supported the U.S. and took the lead in accusing us whenever we hold military training, with repeated absurd claims, saying such as ‘condemnation’ and that it is a ‘violation of UN resolution,’” a statement, attributed to an unnamed official, noted.

Monday’s launches continue even as North Korea continues to cope with the unknown effects of the East Asian coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic. Monday’s launch comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un deliver a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose office said that Kim “underlined his unwavering trust and friendship toward President Moon” and expressed his hope that South Korea, which has one of the worst incidences of COVID-19 outside of China, where the disease is thought to originated, would overcome the challenge.

North Korea has conducted military training involving ballistic missiles and artillery rockets in March in previous years as a response to U.S.-South Korea springtime military exercises. The latter have been suspended this year amid South Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak.

South Korean authorities are expected to release further information about the type of projectiles North Korea launched on Monday, including their type, flight range, apogee, and the time between the launch of each projectile. North Korean state media will likely release images of the launches on Tuesday morning.