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North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles on Saturday, officials in South Korea and Japan said, as experts believe leader Kim Jong Un might be trying to strengthen domestic support amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The launch marks the sixth launch by North Korea in less than a month.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the projectiles flying from the North Korean city of Wonsan into the Sea of Japan.
A man watches a TV screen showing a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, March 29, 2020. North Korea on Sunday fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea, South Korea said, calling it “very inappropriate” at a time when the world is battling the coronavirus pandemic. The Korean letters read: ” North Korea launched two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korea has fired various missiles and artillery shells into the sea in an apparent effort to upgrade its military capabilities amid deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.
While the weapons are capable of striking South Korea, they fall well short of posing a direct threat to the U.S. itself.
The South Korean military further described the launches as “very inappropriate” at a time when the world is suffering a pandemic.
“Recent repeated firings of ballistic missiles by North Korea is a serious problem to the entire international community including Japan,” a Japan Defense Ministry statement said.
Some experts believe the latest launches were likely designed to shore up unity and show that leader Kim Jong Un is in control in the face of the U.S.-led sanctions and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
North Korea has engaged in an intense campaign to prevent the spread of the virus that has infected over 660,000 worldwide. Despite sharing borders with South Korea and China – where the virus was first detected late last year – officials in the North have claimed no cases of COVID-19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.