Good evening. North Korea launched two short-range missiles into the East Sea earlier this morning - the second weapons test in less than a week.
What's different this time is that they are believed to have been ballistic missiles launched from the ground.
South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that the two missiles had been fired from the Hamju area of Hamgyongnam-do province toward the sea, off North Korea's east coast, at 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. local time.
Arirang News' national defense correspondent Kim Ji-yeon is at the defense ministry in downtown Seoul.
Ji-yeon, anything new we're learning about the missiles North Korea fired this morning?
The experts that I've talked to said that through the process of elimination, they've been able to make an educated guess as to what might have been launched today, based on the information released by South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff this morning.
Some of the weapons that were mentioned by the press earlier in the day were the KN-23 and KN-24 which is North Korea's version of the U.S. surface-to-surface missile system ATACMS due to their similarities in flight distance and maximum altitude to the missiles that were test-fired today.
But it's now been suggested that such suggestions are incorrect given that today's launch was from the country's eastern coastal town of Hamju which signals that the North presumably tested a new type of weapon rather than weapons that have been test-fired before.
The KN-23 and KN-24 missiles have already been tested multiple times in the past several years so if they were fired today it would have been more likely that they would've been fired somewhere inland rather than in a coastal area in order to show off the North's confidence in its missile capabilities and to test an increase in flight distance of pre-existing weapons.
Is the 19 minute gap between the two consecutive firings significant?
With this, we can cross out the possibility that today's tests were submarine-launched ballistic missiles launched from the ground or missiles fired from super-large multiple rocket launchers.
So far, North Korea has been able to conduct only one SLBM launch a day not two launches in a short space of time.
In addition, North Korea has only one launcher for SLBMs at its Sinpo shipyard and it's speculated that it's currently physically impossible that they could've fired another within 20 minutes of firing the first missile.
Experts also crossed out the possibility that the missiles were super-large multiple rocket launchers due to the gap between the two launches of some 19 minutes. If it were from a super-large multiple rocket launcher, the gap would have been mere seconds like it was in March 2020.
So given this analysis, experts have come to the conclusion that the missiles fired earlier today might be a new type of Iskander-class ballistic missile using transporter erected launchers that might have been revealed in the military parade that coincided with the eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party in January.
It's likely North Korea will try to raise tensions by firing more advanced weaponry like the Pukguksong-5 SLBMs or a new type of inter-continental ballistic missile next to pressure Washington since this was mentioned during the party congress.
Back to you.