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North Korea test-fires missiles into sea off eastern coast, Seoul says

In this photo released Saturday, March 21, 2020 by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean troops participate in an artillery fire competition between large combined Army units “on the western front” on Friday, March 20.

KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY

By KIM GAMEL AND YOO KYONG CHANG | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 20, 2020

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles that flew more than 250 miles before splashing into the sea off its eastern coast on Saturday, the South Korean military said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also guided an artillery fire competition between large combined army units “on the western front” on Friday, state-run media reported.

The military activity showed the North is continuing to develop its weapons programs as nuclear talks with the United States have been deadlocked for more than a year.

The two projectiles, which were presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles, were launched from a western area on Saturday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It said the projectiles flew more than 250 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 30 miles.

“Our military is maintaining a readiness posture and tracking and monitoring the situation in case of additional launches,” it said.

The artillery units fired rounds targeting an islet on Friday as part of a surprise inspection by Kim, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

It was aimed at evaluating the troops and "definitely turning ordinary drills into practicable ones for an actual war,” KCNA said.

“The supreme leader expressed satisfaction, saying that the firing skill of the artillerymen on the western front, those under the 3rd Corps in particular, was remarkably great,” KCNA said.

The North conducted a series of other missile tests and artillery drills earlier this month in what South Korean officials said was part of winter training drills.

The show of strength came after the United States and South Korea canceled plans for a joint military training exercise this month because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The allies insist they are continuing regular training and remain ready to fight if needed.

Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said measures have been implemented to protect the health of troops while maintaining “our fight-tonight readiness posture.”

“That mission has not gone away with COVID-19, and you need to not look any further than the last two weeks with multiple North Korean missile tests,” he told reporters on March 13.

“We're still flying. We're still training. We're still shooting gunnery. We're still qualifying our weapons. We're still conducting maneuver training,” he said.

Some 28,500 American service members are stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

gamel.kim@stripes.com
Twitter: @kimgamel

chang.kyong@stripes.com

In this photo released Saturday, March 21, 2020 by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches as troops participate in an artillery fire competition between large combined Army units “on the western front” on Friday, March 20.
KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY

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