SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired two short-range missiles into its eastern waters Sunday, a South Korean official said, an apparent test fire that comes just days after the country tested what it called new precision-guided missiles.
The Defense Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said the missiles were fired from Wonsan in Gangwon Province and are presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles. The official said North Korea fired the missiles without designating no-sail zones, which the South Korean military views as a clear provocation. South Korean media quoted officials as saying the projectiles appeared to be Scud missiles.
North Korea regularly test-fires missiles and artillery, both to refine its weapons and to express its anger over various developments in Seoul and Washington. North Korea has expressed anger in recent days with alleged South Korean artillery test-fires near a disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea.
As it unleashed a torrent of rhetoric in state media condemning annual U.S.-South Korean military drills earlier this year, Pyongyang also conducted series of missile and artillery tests that boosted tensions with rival Seoul. The North says it considers its rivals' annual springtime drills as preparation for an invasion.
The country said Friday that leader Kim Jong Un guided test launches of a newly developed precision-guided missiles, in a likely reference to three short-range projectiles South Korean officials say the North fired a day earlier.
There's virtually no way to independently confirm whether North Korea has developed such high-tech missiles. North Korea has frequently bluffed and exaggerated about its military capability, and its army, though one of the world's largest, is seen as running on outdated equipment and short supplies amid the nation's chronic economic problems, according to foreign analysts.
Still, the impoverished North devotes much of its scarce resources to its missile and nuclear programs, which subsequently pose a serious threat to South Korea, Japan and tens of thousands of U.S. troops in the region. Outside analysts say North Korea has developed a handful of crude nuclear devices and is working toward building a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although most experts say that goal may take years to achieve.
The South has said that North Korea has been trying to upgrade its large-caliber multiple-rocket launch systems in recent years and that those weapons' range has been slightly and gradually increased in each test-launch.
North Korea has in recent months threatened South Korea's president, calling her a prostitute, and the South has vowed to hit North Korea hard if provoked. North Korea also test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles and exchanged artillery fire with South Korea near the disputed boundary in the Yellow Sea.
On Thursday, North Korea's army accused South Korea of firing shells into the North's waters near the sea boundary.
Both Koreas routinely conduct artillery drills near the maritime boundary, a scene of several bloody skirmishes in recent years. A North Korean artillery attack in 2010 killed four South Koreans on a front-line Yellow Sea island.
The Korean Peninsula is still technically in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. The United States keeps about 28,500 troops in the South.