North Korea launched short-range missiles Thursday off its western coast, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said, amid a deadlock in international negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.
“We have intelligence that North Korea fired short-range missiles into the waters off its western coast, and we are trying to confirm how many were fired and what type of missiles they are,” a Defense Ministry official said on customary condition of anonymity.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported the North fired one or two missiles Thursday morning, citing an unnamed intelligence official.
Another intelligence official said North Korea fired two missiles Thursday — one in the morning, and one in the afternoon — which is believed to be “part of routine drills,” according to Yonhap.
The missiles were either land-to-ship or ship-to-ship models with a range of less than 62 miles, and fell into North Korea’s territorial waters, the report said.
Regular military drills
Two weeks ago, North Korea test-fired at least one short-range missile into eastern coastal waters, which South Korean and U.S. officials played down as part of the communist country’s regular military drills.
The latest launches come as North Korea refuses to move on its pledge to shut down its main nuclear reactor over a delay in withdrawing $25 million at a Macau bank, which was blacklisted by the U.S.
The North has made the funds’ release a key condition to disarmament, having boycotted international negotiations for more than a year over the issue, during which it conducted its first-ever nuclear test in October.
Last July, North Korea also fired a barrage of missiles, including a long-range one believed to be capable of reaching even parts of the U.S.
North Korea is believed to have produced enough plutonium to make as many as a dozen or more nuclear bombs, but experts say it likely does not have a bomb design advanced enough to be placed on a missile.