North Korea Fires Short-Range Projectiles: South Korea

May 3, 2019 Updated: May 4, 2019

South Korea’s military said that North Korea fired several short-range projectiles from its east coast on May 4 local time. It initially described it as a missile launch but later gave a more vague description.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement that several unidentified short-range projectiles flew some 70 to 200 kilometers (about 44 to 125 miles) from the north of the city of Wonsan around 9 a.m. (0000 GMT) before they landed in the water.

Surveillance and vigilance have been stepped up to prepare for any further launches by North Korea, and the South Korean military maintains readiness and is cooperating with the United States, the JCS added.

“Our military has been closely watching North Korea’s movements and has maintained a full-fledged posture in close coordination with the US,” the JCS said in a statement quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “We are aware of North Korea’s actions tonight. We will continue to monitor as necessary.”

A Pentagon press officer said in response to a Reuters request for comment: “We aren’t able to confirm anything at the moment, we are looking in to it.”

South Korea’s presidential Blue House is “analyzing the situation,” a Blue House official said without elaborating.

The South Korean military said it will, together with the United States, analyze the latest launches.

Japan’s Defense Ministry says North Korean missiles have not reached anywhere near the country’s coast and that Japan is not facing any security threat.

north korea fires projectiles
A man watches a television screen showing a news report on North Korea firing several short-range projectiles from its east coast, on a street in Tokyo, Japan, on May 4, 2019. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

A Missile?

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has vowed to no longer test nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but the North has conducted other weapons tests since then.

If North Korea really did fire banned ballistic missiles, it will be the first launch since it fired a test of ICBM back in November 2017.

Analysts said that no matter what type of projectile was fired, the timing of North Korea’s action would send a message to the United States.

“It is an expression of the North’s frustration over stalled talks with the United States. It is a message that it could return to the previous confrontational mode if there is no breakthrough in the stalemate,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.

north korea fires projectiles
A woman walks past a sign printed with the characters of the name of the new Japanese imperial era Reiwa next to a television screen showing North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a news report on North Korea firing several short-range projectiles from its east coast, in Tokyo, Japan, on May 4, 2019. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

“It also seems clear that North Korea is angry over what appears to be a lack of flexibility in the Trump administration’s position on relieving sanctions, sticking to a policy of ‘maximum pressure’,” said Harry Kazianis at the Center for the National Interest, a think-tank.

Kim has held two summit meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, the second in February in Vietnam, but the two failed to make progress on ending the North’s nuclear program due to disagreement on weapons dismantlement and sanctions relief.

“The two leaders discussed various ways to advance denuclearization and economic driven concepts,” Sanders said in a statement back on Feb. 28. “No agreement was reached at this time, but their respective teams look forward to meeting in the future.”

Trump said at a press conference later that North Korea’s insistence on lifting sanctions without offering enough denuclearization in return proved to be the sticking point.

“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that. They were willing to denuke a large portion of the areas we wanted, but we couldn’t give up all of the sanctions for that.”

While the two leaders failed to reach a consensus, Trump said the summit was “very productive.” The president added he had a proposed agreement that was “ready to be signed,” but said he didn’t want to rush into a bad deal.

By Hyunjoo Jin and Joyce Lee. Additional reporting by Mohammad Zargham, Steve Holland and Tim Kelly. With reporting by AP, and The Epoch Times staff.