The purpose of the drill was to test performance of “large-caliber long-range multiple rocket launchers and tactical guided weapons by defense units,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
Photographs released by KCNA showed the tactical guided weapons fired could be short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missiles, according to Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Korea’s Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern (IFE) Studies.
While such a missile launch would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, at least it would not involve long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
The new, solid fuel ballistic missiles can fly as far as 500 kilometers (311 miles), putting the entire Korean Peninsula within its range, and are capable of neutralizing the advanced U.S. anti-missile defense system (THAAD) deployed in South Korea, military analysts said.
The South Korean defense ministry, however, put the range of weapons fired from the east coast city of Wonsan around 9 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Saturday at between 70 to 240 km (44 to 149 miles).
Giving orders for the test firing, North Korean leader Kim stressed the need to “increase the combat ability so as to defend the political sovereignty and economic self-sustenance” of North Korea in the face of threats and invasions, the report said.
The statement came a day after the test firing, which analysts interpreted as an attempt to exert pressure on Washington to give ground in negotiations to end the North’s nuclear program after a summit in February ended in failure.
North Korea had maintained a freeze in nuclear and ballistic missiles testing in place since 2017, which U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly pointed out as an important achievement from his engagement with Pyongyang.
(Production: Deborah Gembara)