SEOUL, January 15, Reuters - North Korea tested a railway-borne missile in its firing drills on Friday, state media said on Saturday, marking its third weapons test this month, which has triggered a U.S. push for new sanctions against the isolated state.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected two short-range ballistic missiles launched eastward from North Pyongan Province on the northwest coast of North Korea.
The official KCNA news agency said a firing drill was held to verify and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment, which was tested for the first time last September, as a potential counter-strike to any threatening forces.
It was the third time North Korea has launched ballistic missiles since New Year's Day, an unusually rapid pace of weapons tests. The previous two launches involved what state media called hypersonic missiles capable of high speeds and manoeuvring after launch.
The drill came hours after Pyongyang slammed the U.N. pursuit of new U.N. sanctions over a series of recent launches as a provocation and warned of a strong reaction.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not attend the drill. The KCNA said it was held at short notice by the military's general staff but the regiment precisely hit the target set in the east coast with two tactical guided missiles. The regiment discussed ways to set up a proper railway-borne missile operating system across the country, and demonstrated high maneuverability and rate of hits, and discussed ways to set up a proper railway-borne missile operating system, according to KCNA.
North Korea defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally escalating the situation with new sanctions.
Washington condemned the latest launch, saying it posed a threat to Pyongyang's neighbours and the international community, while calling for a restart of stalled denuclearisation talks.