North Korea fired two presumed short-range ballistic missiles on Monday, just days after its leader Kim Jong Un supervised artillery drills aimed at testing the combat readiness of some of its units. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff revealed the projectiles were fired from an area near the coastal town of Wonsan and flew about 149 miles northeast on an apogee of about 22 miles, the Associated Press reported. They told reporters they are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles. The South Korean and U.S. militaries are said to be analyzing the launches. The launch was the first of its kind by North Korea in 2020, which could signify the Hermit Kingdom might be resuming weapons demonstrations after a months-long hiatus that may have been forced by the coronavirus epidemic in Asia. The rogue leader, who late last year announced he was no longer obligated to comply with a self-imposed moratorium on testing weapons, gave no clear indication of when he would resume testing. North Korea likely tested one of its new road-mobile, solid-fuel missile systems or a developmental “super large” multiple rocket launcher it repeatedly demonstrated last year, said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies. Experts say such weapons can potentially overwhelm missile defense systems and expand the North’s ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. bases there. South Korea’s presidential office said National Security Director Chung Eui-yong discussed the launches with the South’s defense minister and spy chief, and that the officials expressed “strong concern” over the North’s resumption of testing activity, which could raise military tensions. Japan said that it had not detected any projectile landing in its territory or its exclusive economic zone, and that no sea vessels or aircraft had been damaged. “The repeated firings of ballistic missiles by North Korea is a serious problem for the international community including Japan, and the government will continue to gather and analyze information, and monitor the situation to protect the lives and property of the people,” the Defense Ministry’s statement said. Kim’s latest show of force is apparently aimed at boosting military morale, strengthening internal unity and showing that his country is doing fine despite outside worries of how the North would contend with an outbreak. North Korea in previous years has intensified testing activity in response to springtime military exercises between South Korea and the United States that it has described as invasion rehearsals. But the allies announced last week that they were postponing their annual drills due to concern about the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, with soldiers from both countries being infected. Amid the deadlock in larger nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration, Kim has suspended virtually all cooperation with South Korea in the past months while demanding that Seoul defy U.S.-led international sanctions and restart inter-Korean economic projects that would jolt the North’s broken economy.
Nothing to really be concerned about here…yet. But, we’ll continue to monitor and update as needed. For now, this is just business as usual, and Kim Jong Ding Dong is probably doing this more for internal reasons than anything else.