North Korea reportedly launched a fourth short-range missile in just two days, according to the South Korea’s semi-official news agency, Yonhap.
The first three missiles were launched on Saturday into the East Sea, off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. South Korean military officials confirmed the rockets were guided.
The military officials added that the missiles were fired in a northeasterly direction away from South Korean waters. The South has beefed up its monitoring of the North since March, when tensions in the region skyrocketed.
North Korea frequently launches short-range missiles, so the four fired this weekend did not cause alarm for the South or the United States. They would have worried if the North fired a longer-range missile that could show improvements with the country’s arsenal.
Analysts say the long-range missile, called the Musudan, could strike as far as Guam, where some American troops are stationed. The North has previously threatened to strike bases there if they are provoked. Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea analyst at Dongguk University in Seoul, explained:
“With the short-range missile tests, North Korea is reminding the United States and South Korea that it can escalate tensions again and follow up with more serious steps if things do not go in the direction it wants.”
Tensions have eased since March and April, when North Korea threatened war almost every day. At the time, US and South Korean officials believed that Kim Jong Un could carry out a test launch of the long-range missiles. Andrew Salmon, a journalist and author in Seoul, explained that North Korea’s short-range missile launches shouldn’t be cause for high concern. He explained:
“It’s a short-range tactical weapon. If any other country launched this kind of weapon, it’s a routine test, nobody would be too worried. It’s really simply because it’s North Korea doing this that it raises concerns.”
Last month, North Korea appeared to threaten the launch of Musudan missiles when the South detected mobile launching vehicles on the North’s east coast. This month, American officials reported that the North had withdrawn the vehicles.
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