North Korea launches artillery into sea just days after launch

South Korea says North Korea dumped suspicious artillery pieces into the sea

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired suspicious artillery pieces into the sea on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, adding that the blast failed in the country’s latest weapons test activity just days after North Korea launched its latest missile.

There is speculation that North Korea may soon try to launch its development long-range ballistic missile to strengthen its arsenal and increase pressure on the United States to grant concessions as talks stall. The South Korean military has suggested that parts of its largest weapon, the Hawassong-17 missile, were involved in Wednesday’s North Korean mid-air missile launch.

On Sunday, South Korea’s defense ministry said it had identified the possibility of firing from multiple rocket launch systems off North Korea’s west coast. The ministry said the military was closely monitoring North Korea’s movements and maintaining its readiness.

The South Korean president’s office said in a separate statement that it had convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the North’s “short-range projectile launch.”

Council members worked closely with the United States to conduct a detailed analysis of the shootings, it said. The statement added that South Korea would use its enhanced military capabilities and its alliance with the United States to prevent a security vacuum during the transition of power in Seoul.

President Moon Jae-in’s five-year term ends in May, and he will be replaced by a new conservative government led by Eun Suu Kyi. Eun, a former top prosecutor, has vowed to boost Seoul’s military alliance with Washington and win a strong U.S. security pledge to defuse North Korea’s growing nuclear threat.

Wednesday’s failed missile launch was the North’s 10th weapons launch this year. The U.S. and South Korean military have said they have concluded that two recent North Korean launches earlier Wednesday were to test a Hwaseong-17 system. North Korea later said the launches were designed to test cameras and other systems for a spy satellite.

Some outside experts say North Korea will probably launch a Hwasong-17 rocket to test its long-range missile technology and put its first functional spy satellite into orbit. The Hwasong-17’s potential maximum range of 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) will cover the entire U.S. mainland within its striking distance and its huge size indicates that it could carry a large payload or multiple nuclear warheads.

The Hwasong-17 launch will be the North’s most serious provocation since the country conducted three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017.

The South Korean government did not immediately disclose where the weapons were fired on Sunday. Korea’s weakly marked western maritime border witnessed naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, 50 South Koreans were killed in an alleged attack on North Korea in the region – 46 on a warship and four on a border island.

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