North Korea Fires Missiles as Kim Leads Military Exercise

Kanga Kong

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea appears to have fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea shared with Japan, hours after leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a military exercise.

South Korea said it had detected the projectiles fired from North Pyongan Province near the West Sea and that they traveled 410 kilometers (255 miles). Japan’s coast guard confirmed that the projectiles fell outside of its exclusive economic zone, while its Minister of Defense Taro Kono said the launches may be linked with the coronavirus pandemic, serving as a move by North Korea to tighten internal order and control.

“The recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea are a serious issue for Japan and the rest of the international community,” Japan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. The South Korean government also condemned the military action as “inappropriate.”

The move followed the firing of what are believed to be three short-range ballistic missiles off North Korea’s eastern coast last week.

Minutes before the information was released by the South Korean military, its isolated neighbor’s state media said that Kim on Friday led an “artillery fire competition” among large combined units of the army on the western front, which he found satisfactory.

Kim “gave important instructions on the direction of the military and political work, including the issue of intensifying the drills” of the military “as required by the prevailing situation,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a statement.

KCNA also said in a separate statement that the North will convene a parliament session on April 10, without providing any agenda details.

(Updates with comments from Japan and South Korea authorities)

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