As North Korea on March 21 fired two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, Seoul’s military reportedly urged North to immediately stop its ‘very inappropriate’ military demonstrations as the world is struggling to cope with coronavirus pandemic. According to reports, projectiles were fired around 6:45 and 6:50 am from an area around the country of Sonchon, western North Korea. They reportedly flew 410 kilometres cross-country on an apogee of 50 kilometres before landing in waters off the eastern coast.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reportedly said that such military action by North Korea is highly "inappropriate" and that too at a time when COVID-19 is causing difficulties worldwide. He further urged North Korea to immediately stop.
As per reports, the missile launch came just hours after North Korea confirmed that it would go ahead with a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, its rubber-stamp legislature in Pyongyang. The event gathers almost 700 of the country’s top officials in one spot. North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single coronavirus case, but state media have described anti-virus efforts as a matter of ‘national existence’.
North Korea has even banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all-cross border traffic with China. Furthermore, the country has intensified screening at entry points and mobilised health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms. Several health experts believe that the epidemic in North Korea could have dire consequences due to the country’s poor health system and a shortage of medical supplies.
Speaking of the missile launches, this is the third time in this month that North Korea launched projectiles. On March 1, North Korea had ended its months-long hiatus and launched two unidentified projectiles into the eastern sea. The projectiles were launched from an area near Wonsan, a port town east of Pyongyang, but the range and type of weapon were not identified. On March 9 North Korea again fired three unidentified short-range projectiles off its east coast.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, and Estonia, had said in a joint statement the missile tests undermine regional security and stability, as well as international peace and security, and are in clear violation of unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolutions. They also urged North Korea to engage in ‘good faith’ in meaningful negotiations with the United States aimed at denuclearization and take concrete steps to ‘abandon’ all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.