On Wednesday, the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that the North had fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Hodo Peninsula in South Hamgyong Province in the early hours of the day.
On Thursday, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said that the country had conducted “a test-fire of a newly developed large-caliber multiple launch” under the direct supervision of leader Kim Jong-un the previous day.
“The test-fire scientifically confirmed that the tactical data and technical characteristics of the new-type large-caliber guided ordnance rocket reached the numerical values of its design, and verified the combat effectiveness of the overall system,” the KCNA report added.
It further said Kim had praised the test fire as “very great.”
The report did not provide further details of the new rocket launcher, but the JCS had said in its Wednesday report that the “two missiles” were estimated to have flown about 250 kilometers at an altitude of roughly 30 kilometers.
It had also said that they were similar to the new type of missiles the North had launched less than a week ago.
On July 25, the JCS said that Pyongyang had fired two short-range missiles from the same peninsula toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, adding that the missiles flew around 430 kilometers and reached an altitude of 50 kilometers before splashing down into the sea.
The newer development comes days after the North strongly denounced joint military exercises between South Korea and the US.
North Korea, currently under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the United Nations (UN) and the US over its nuclear and missile programs, put a unilateral halt to its missile and nuclear tests shortly before a diplomatic thaw began between Pyongyang and Seoul in early 2018.
That thaw later led to two summits between US President Donald Trump and Kim to discuss the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula, the first of which was held in Singapore in June last year and the second in Vietnam in February.
The Singapore summit made little progress, mainly because Washington refuses to lift its harsh sanctions on North Korea. The second one ended in failure as Trump abruptly walked away from the summit.
Failure of the Vietnam summit prompted the North to warn, in a number of occasions, that it was considering ending talks on denuclearization and resuming its nuclear and missile tests over what it described as “the gangster-like stand” of the US.
In their third, brief meeting at the Korean border at the end of June, the two leaders agreed to kick-start working-level talks.
The US has so far refused to offer any sanctions relief in return for several unilateral steps already taken by North Korea. Pyongyang has also demolished at least one nuclear test site and agreed to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
Commenting on the Wednesday test-fire, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launches were “no threat to Japanese national security.” He also stressed that Tokyo would continue to “closely cooperate” with the US and other allies on the issue.
Separately, Japan’s Defense Ministry confirmed on Wednesday that the launches did not land in Japan’s territorial waters or exclusive economic zone.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing a statement by the country’s JCS, reported on Thursday that an unidentified North Korean man had ventured into the South through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the two countries.
According to the JCS, the man was spotted late Wednesday night in the DMZ running in a southerly direction after crossing the Military Demarcation Line.
It added that the man was arrested “in accordance with procedures” and was being questioned.
Seoul claims more than 30,000 people from North Korea have escaped to South Korea since the two countries were separated by the Korean War more than 65 years ago.