SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday in the country’s third weapons test this month, the South Korean military said.

The missiles were fired from the county of Sonchon in North Pyongan Province in the northwest, flying 255 miles to the northeast before landing in waters between North Korea and Japan, South Korean defense officials said. They provided no other details, such as the specific type of missiles launched, as they were still analyzing data collected from the test.

The South’s military said it was “deeply inappropriate” for the North to launch missiles as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, saying it had “urged the North to stop such acts immediately.”

The North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has stepped up military activities this month as the pandemic has surged. Officially, the North has reported no coronavirus cases, but health experts fear that the isolated country might be hiding an outbreak. Initial international shipments of medical aid are expected to arrive there in the coming days.

In its last weapons test, on March 9, North Korea fired various types of multiple-rocket launchers as part of a live-fire winter military drill overseen by Mr. Kim. The country conducted a similar drill on March 2.

The tests have signaled a return to provocative actions by North Korea a year after a failed summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump.

That meeting, held in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February of last year, collapsed over differences on how to denuclearize North Korea and when to ease American-led U.N. sanctions.

Since then, Mr. Kim has repeatedly said that North Korea was no longer interested in diplomacy with Washington. He also warned that his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, and that the world would witness a new North Korean strategic weapon “in the near future.”

The North has not followed up on that threat with any long-range missile tests, but its military resumed a vigorous winter training schedule this month, South Korean officials said.

On Friday, the North Korean military conducted a live-fire training exercise at an unidentified location, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday. A series of photos carried by the news agency showed Mr. Kim watching a phalanx of artillery pieces opening fire from a beach with the shells landing on an islet.

The sound “rocked heaven and earth,” the state news agency said. Mr. Kim watched “an artillery fire competition between large combined units of the Korean People’s Army,” or K.P.A.

Mr. Kim later called for “intensifying the drills of all the K.P.A. units, as required by the prevailing situation,” the news agency said.

Also on Saturday, North Korea said its Parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, would meet on April 10. It did not say what issues would be addressed by the assembly, which is a rubber-stamp body.

North Korea has resumed its military drills even as it remains highly vulnerable to epidemics because of the decrepit condition of its public health system and the international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which make it difficult to ship aid there.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross and other aid groups have made urgent pleas for the United Nations to grant exemptions so they can send medical supplies to the North to help fight the coronavirus.

North Korea has said it is waging an all-out campaign against the virus.

The country has been “tightening control over all the people to let them obey unconditionally the instructions and supervision of emergency anti-epidemic headquarters,” the North Korean news agency said on Friday.

As of Thursday, all but three foreigners in quarantine had been released after showing no symptoms, it said. It also that said more than 2,500 people had been released from quarantine in the provinces of North and South Pyongan.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)