North Korea Fires Short Range Missiles

David Lee, March 29, 2016, 8:12 a.m.

North Korea fired a short-range projectile in an apparent show of defiance against toughened international sanctions over its nuclear test and long-range missile launch, South Korea's military said Tuesday. An unidentified projectile was fired from the coastal city of Wonsan at around 5:40 p.m., according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The projectile flew some 200 kilometers in a northeasterly direction before falling and hitting a land target, it added. Given the trajectory and distance traveled, the military suspects the projectile might be North Korea's new multiple rocket launcher system (MRLS). "We are closely monitoring related developments and maintaining a high state of readiness," a military official said.

The latest provocation came after the North fired five 300 millimeter multiple rocket launchers into the East Sea on March 21 from the northeastern city of Hamhung. North Korea called that launch the "final test-fire" of its MRLS, suggesting that the country is ready to field the weapons systems for actual use. The North has been ratcheting up military tensions since the United Nations Security Council imposed toughened sanctions early this month. It has also responded forcefully to ongoing joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises.

Since the start of March, Pyongyang has conducted six rocket and missile launches, including the firing off of both short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles. In a saber-rattling move, the North recently claimed that its powerful large-caliber multiple rocket launching systems are ready to scorch Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office, at a moment's notice.

North Korea repeated its harsh rhetoric on Tuesday, vowing a pre-emptive nuclear strike in response to what it claims is provocation by South Korea and the U.S. "The DPRK has shifted all the military counteraction modes to preemptive attack ones to cope with the U.S. nuclear war hysteria and declared the will to mount a decisive preemptive nuclear attack," Pyongyang's Foreign Minister Lee Su-yong said in an interview carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

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