North Korea fired seven surface-to-air missiles into the sea off its east coast in an operation supervised by leader Kim Jong-Un at a time of heightened military tensions, South Korea’s Defence Ministry said today.
A ministry spokesman said Kim was understood to have been on hand when the rockets were fired last evening from a site near the eastern town of Sondok.
The exercise came at a time of elevated tensions with North Korea’s condemnation of annual US-South Korea military drills that Pyongyang views as rehearsals for invasion.
“We see this as another show of force by the North related to the exercises,” the spokesman told AFP.
One of the joint drills, Key Resolve, wound up today, but the other, Foal Eagle, is set to continue until April 24.
The annual exercises are always a particularly testing time for relations between the two Koreas, who remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.
North Korea signalled its displeasure when this year’s drills began by firing two short-range Scud missiles into the sea off its east coast.
UN resolutions ban any ballistic missile test by North Korea.
The defence ministry spokesman acknowledged that yesterday’s surface-to-air missile tests were not a violation of the resolutions, but added that Pyongyang had failed to announce the firing in advance as a caution to shipping.
“This is a pretty low-intensity show of force, timed to coincide with the wrap-up of the Key Resolve exercise,” said Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Missile tests have long been a preferred North Korean method of expressing displeasure with what it views as confrontational behaviour by the South and its allies, though Seoul and Washington insist the exercises are defence-based in nature.