North Korea fired at least two short-range missiles several days ago, according to multiple reports, in what would be Pyongyang’s first launches in about a year.
The Washington Post first reported the launches late Tuesday, saying “multiple short-range missiles” were launched “last weekend” but providing no other details.
Several other media outlets confirmed the report, citing U.S. officials who spoke anonymously.
It is not clear which missiles were tested, when they were tested, or how far they flew. U.S. and South Korean officials did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment.
U.S. and South Korean officials usually provide details shortly after North Korean launches. Pyongyang also usually heralds the activities on the front pages of its state media the following day.
None of that happened this time, leading some experts to question whether the missiles tested were small or evaded radar detection by the U.S. and its allies.
The launches, if confirmed, came days after visits to Seoul and Tokyo by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The Biden administration, which is carrying out a North Korea policy review, has tried to renew talks with North Korea. But North Korea says it won’t respond to dialogue.
Last week, North Korea blasted U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises, warning against what it sees as provocative actions that cause a “stink.”
White House officials have not commented on the latest North Korean launch, which would be Pyongyang’s first missile test since July 2020.
That launch, which involved an anti-ship cruise missile and flew less than 100 kilometers, also went unreported for several weeks.
Some missile experts believe North Korea’s latest launch may have also involved cruise missiles, which fly lower than ballistic missiles and may be missed by radars.
Second, the story reads like the missile was not detected in real-time, but rather US officials learned about it later. That's much more likely with a cruise missile, which can fly low than with a ballistic missile that will pop up above the horizon, clouds, etc.— Dr. Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) March 23, 2021
Many experts expect North Korea will soon resume bigger tests, including possibly of longer-range ballistic missiles.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in January 2020 that he no longer felt bound by his self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.
Pyongyang has not conducted a nuclear test or launched an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 — before his diplomacy with former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Kim has repeatedly tested shorter-range ballistic missiles, but Trump downplayed those tests, saying they were unimportant.
North Korea is prohibited from any ballistic missile activity by United Nations Security Council resolutions.