By Hwang Sung-Hee
Seoul (AFP) March 21, 2016
North Korea on Monday fired five short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast -- the latest in a series of launches ordered by leader Kim Jong-Un amid rising military tensions.
They came just days after the North test-fired two medium-range missiles in what the UN Security Council described as an "unacceptable" violation of UN resolutions.
Tensions have been soaring on the divided Korean peninsula since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.
The Security Council responded earlier this month by imposing its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date.
In recent weeks Pyongyang has maintained a daily barrage of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington, ostensibly over continuing large-scale South Korea-US military drills that the North sees as provocative rehearsals for invasion.
An official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the five short-range missiles were launched from near the eastern city of Hamhung, beginning just before 3:20pm (0620 GMT), and landed in the East Sea (Sea of Japan).
He said analysts were still gathering intelligence on the precise missile type.
The North had fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea on March 10, using what state media described as a new high-calibre multiple rocket launcher.
Existing UN sanctions ban North Korea from conducting any ballistic missile test, although short-range launches tend to go unpunished.
- Upping the ante -
Last Friday the North upped the ante by test-firing two medium-range missiles, which were seen as far more provocative given the threat they pose to neighbours like Japan.
They were the first medium-range launches for two years and followed an order from Kim Jong-Un for his military to prepare a series of missile launches as well as an eventual nuclear warhead explosion test.
China, the isolated North's sole major ally, urged it Monday to refrain from violating UN resolutions and called for calm in both Koreas.
At a meeting with senior aides earlier Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye warned of a "very crucial time" for the Korean peninsula.
"Even after the international community adopted strong sanctions, North Korea continues to attempt reckless provocations as shown through Kim Jong-Un's recent order," Park said.
Seoul government officials, meanwhile, said they were fully prepared for the possibility of another North Korean underground nuclear test.
"We believe that a fifth nuclear test can take place right away," said Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee.
The Defence Ministry also reiterated its assessment that the North was ready to carry out another test as soon as the leadership gave the order.
"In this regard our military, along with intelligence authorities in South Korea and the United States, are thoroughly monitoring such movements," said ministry spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun.
Analysts with the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University say recent satellite images show what appears to be test-tunnel maintenance activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test complex.
"It is highly likely that site is capable of supporting additional tests at any time," one of the analysts wrote on the closely-followed website 38 North.
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at SpaceWar.com
Learn about missile defense at SpaceWar.com
All about missiles at SpaceWar.com
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at SpaceWar.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.|