North Korea launches more ballistic missiles as the world battles COVID-19
Kim Gamel and Yoo Kyong Chang
Stars and Stripes
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, calling the weapons test “very inappropriate.”
The missiles were launched from a northeastern area and flew nearly 150 miles, with a maximum altitude of nearly 20 miles, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul.
It was the fourth such launch this month as the North continues to develop its weapons program amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States. North Korea also has conducted artillery drills in what officials have said is part of its annual winter training.
South Korea’s military said it was closely monitoring the situation and maintaining a readiness posture.
“As the entire world is experiencing difficulties because of COVID-19, this kind of military act by North Korea is very inappropriate and we call for an immediate halt,” the JCS said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in a New Year’s message that his country was no longer bound by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests due to the diplomatic deadlock with Washington.
Experts say the communist state is likely trying to project strength and tighten its grip on power amid concern about the coronavirus.
North Korea, which sharply restricted travel and quarantined foreigners after the virus first appeared in China in late December, has not confirmed any cases of the virus.
Officials have expressed skepticism about that claim and warned the isolated nation would be especially vulnerable to an outbreak because of its weak medical infrastructure.
President Donald Trump has said he’s not concerned about the short-range missile launches but signaled that an intercontinental ballistic missile test would be a red line.
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