South Korea’s military detected the launches early Saturday morning off the North’s west coast, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The statement said South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities were analyzing details of the launches. It said South Korea has boosted its surveillance posture and maintains a firm military readiness in close coordination with the United States.
The launches came two days after the U.S. and South Korean militaries wrapped up their 11-day training exercises that North Korea regards as a rehearsal for invasion. Washington and Seoul officials maintain their drills are defensive.
A day before the U.S.-South Korean training ended, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea in a launch it said was meant to simulate “scorched earth” nuclear strikes on South Korea. The North said it was separately holding a command post exercise aimed at rehearsing an occupation of South Korea’s territory in the event of conflict.
On Aug. 21, the day when the U.S.-South Korean drills began, North Korea’s state media said its leader Kim Jong Un observed cruise missile launches.
North Korea’s second attempt to place a military spy satellite in orbit failed Aug. 24, but the country said it will make a third attempt in October.
Since the start of 2022, North Korea has performed more than 100 weapons tests — many of them ballistic launches, which are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions. North Korea’s cruise missile tests aren’t prohibited, but they still pose a threat to its rivals because they are designed to fly at a lower altitude to evade radar detection. Analysts say the main missions of North Korean cruise missiles are striking incoming U.S. warships and aircraft carriers in the event of war.
Foreign experts say Kim uses U.S.-South Korean military drills as a pretext to expand his missile and nuclear arsenals to boost leverage in future diplomacy with the United States. They say Kim seeks an international recognition as a legitimate nuclear state to get U.N. sanctions on the North lifted.