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North Korea fires two missiles, South Korea says

Posted at 8:44 PM, Jun 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-21 21:17:00-04

North Korea fired two missiles Wednesday morning from its eastern coast, according to a spokesperson from the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The first launch occurred at 5:58 a.m. local time and was presumed to be a Musudan missile, the official said. The South Korean military presumed the first launch from the port city of Wonsan, had been a failure, but did not elaborate, according to the spokesperson. North Korea has made at least four previous attempts this year to test this type of missile.

About two hours later, North Korea tested a second missile at 8:05 a.m. local time, according to a spokesperson for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. Information was not immediately available on whether the second launch was successful and what type of missile the North Koreans had used.

The U.S. State Department condemned the recent missile tests in a statement: “We are aware of reports that the DPRK fired two ballistic missiles. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional allies and partners.”

The United States advised North Korea to stop its ballistic missile tests and said it only strengthened the international community’s resolve to counter the country’s actions through U.N. sanctions.

The United States said it would also defend its allies, South Korea and Japan, and called its commitment to them “ironclad.”

“We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation,” according to U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby.

Japan’s defense minister Gen Nakatani told reporters that the missile launch did not affect the country’s security, but he also called for immediate meetings to take all possible measures to protect Japan.

North Korea tests Musudan again

North Korea has taken much interest in the Musudan, an intermediate-range missile this year.

North Korea attempted its fourth Musudan test in May, but it exploded after flying for about two to three seconds, according to U.S. defense officials.

In late April, a twin missile test of Musudan missiles also failed. In mid-April, on the anniversary of North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung’s birthday, another reported Musudan missile launch ended in failure. All launches were from the North Korean port city of Wonsan.

The Musudan missile isn’t really new, according to John Schilling, an aerospace engineer who regularly contributes to 38 North, a North Korean monitoring project.

“It showed up in North Korea over a decade ago, and it seems to be based on a 1960s-era Soviet design with some local modifications.” The Musudan with its intermediate-range capabilities could deliver a nuclear warhead as far as the U.S. base in Guam, he wrote in an opinion piece for CNN.

The last several months have been particularly contentious on the Korean peninsula, after North Korea claimed to have tested its first hydrogen bomb, an assertion that U.S. officials dispute, and fired a satellite into orbit.

It’s unclear why North Korea has been testing missiles with such intensity this year. The country’s leader Kim Jung Un could be in a rush to sharpen North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

In an interview with CNN’s Paula Hancocks earlier this month, South Korean Defense Minister Han Minkoo pointed out that during the 18 years of Kim Jung Il’s reign in North Korea, the country had conducted 18 missile tests.

In just four years of reign under his son, the younger Kim has now overseen 27 missile launches with the two most recent tests on Wednesday.