South Korea says North Korean fighter jets have fired missiles off the North’s east coast.
A South Korean defence official says the North launched several fighter jets after it conducted suspected cruise missile tests on Tuesday morning.
The official says the North Korean fighter jets fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters.
The launches came on the eve of the 108th birthday of North Korea’s late founder, Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. They also came a day ahead of South Korean parliamentary elections.
In recent weeks, North Korea has carried out a series of short-range missile and other weapons tests amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States.
Most of the weapons tested were ballistic missiles or long-range artillery shells, and it is unusual for North Korea to launch a cruise missile.
Some experts say North Korea is likely to have used the latest weapons launches to bolster its striking capability against South Korea, which has been introducing US-made stealth F-35 jets and other sophisticated conventional weapons systems in recent years. Others say the latest weapons tests were also aimed at shoring up internal unity in the face of US-led sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
North Korea has repeatedly said there has been no coronavirus outbreak on its territory. But many foreign experts are sceptical of that claim and have warned that a coronavirus outbreak in the North could become a humanitarian disaster because of the country’s chronic lack of medical supplies and fragile healthcare infrastructure.