North Korea test-fired several short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday in what appears to have been a regular drill of its tactical armaments, a South Korean official told the Associated Press (see GSN, Dec. 19, 2011).
The Stalinist state launched three KN-02 missiles, which have a maximum flight distance of roughly 75 miles and are typically aimed at land targets. The missiles landed in waters to the east of North Korea, an unidentified South Korean Defense Ministry official said on Friday.
Pyongyang is thought by observers to have used the tests to assess efforts to enhance the missile's precision and top range.
Missile trials are routinely held in the militaristic state; the latest tests come amid efforts by the North's new leader, Kim Jong Un, to enhance his domestic standing following the sudden death of his father, Kim Jong Il in mid-December.
"If the North wanted to send a message, it would have fired a greater number of long-range missiles," Korea Institute for Defense Analyses researcher Kim Jin-moo said.
The South Korean government has been on high alert for weeks for the possibility that Kim Jong Un would order a fresh attack on the South as part of efforts to prove he is a strong military leader like his father (Associated Press/Washington Post, Jan. 13).
The South Korean armed forces think Pyongyang is finishing up work on its KN-06 missiles, an enhanced variation of the KN-02 missile. Trial launches of the new missile class are believed to have begun in 2011, the Yonhap News Agency reported (Yonhap News Agency, Jan. 13).
North Korea test-fired several short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday in what appears to have been a regular drill of its tactical armaments, a South Korean official told the Associated Press.