North Korea test-fires four anti-ship missiles

Kim has now conducted four missile tests since Moon was elected last month, complicating the new president's ambitions to engage with Pyongyang. The South said they were fired from the town of Wonsan and flew about 200 kilometers (125 miles) and landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said the launch was meant to show off Pyongyang's widening arrange of missiles and also its "precision strike capabilities" on ships in response to the joint drills.

All five permanent members of the Security Council have said that no major new sanctions will be imposed as a result of the continuous testing of missiles; a Security Council diplomat said today that it would take a nuclear test to up the ante on sanctions, and even then, China might be reluctant to squeeze North Korea too hard, Falk adds.

However, the European Union on Thursday broadened its sanctions against North Korea over its work on nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The missiles "accurately detected and hit the floating targets on the East Sea of Korea", it reported.

Instead, if North Korea does have a nuclear weapon that can hit the USA, it's deterrence - not missile defense - that are most likely keeping Kim Jong Un's finger off the trigger.

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea's nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

On Wednesday, Mr Moon ordered a delay in the deployment of the controversial Thaad anti-missile defence system, which was installed to combat growing aggression from Pyongyang.

"The latest launch seems to be a show of force to display the North's precision-strike capability against ships in response to South Korea-U.S. joint maritime exercises with a U.S. Navy strike group", a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman here said. The North Korea fired four land-to-ship missiles off its east coast which flew about 200km ( 124 miles) on early Thursday.

The launch follows the move of Moon's government suspending the deployment of a controversial U.S. missile defense system which had strained relations with China and angered North Korea. South Korea's JCS also said that it was conducting an analysis on the drone, which would take 10 days to complete.

The United States is increasingly concerned about the nuclear-armed North Korea's missile capabilities, especially its push to acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Yonhap notes.

In Washington, the U.S. missile defense chief voiced worries about the pace of development in the North's missile program.

On May 14, the North launched a "Hwasong-12" mid-to-long-range ballistic missile from north of Pyongyang, followed by the firing of a Pukguksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile, also known as KN-15, a week later from another site north of the capital.

The United States has recently moved two aircraft carrier strike groups - the Carl Vinson and the Ronald Reagan - near the Korean Peninsula.

The rocket, tested from a tracked mobile launcher, was a new weapon displayed by North Korea for the first time during a military parade earlier this year, said KCNA.

"We are closely watching related news reports and taking note of varying reports on the nature of the fired projectiles", Hua said.

  • Leroy Wright