North Korea test-fired suspected artillery pieces into the sea on Sunday, South Korea's military said, days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for greater defense capability to cope with outside threats. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it detected several flight trajectories believed to be North Korean artillery on Sunday morning, the AP reports. It said South Korea maintains a firm military readiness in close coordination with the US amid boosted surveillance on North Korea.
During a national security council meeting convened to discuss the suspected launches, South Korean officials expressed concern that its neighbor is upgrading weapons systems that pose a direct threat to South Korea and reaffirmed they would sternly deal with such North Korean efforts, according to the presidential office. The North's artillery tests draw less outside attention than its missile launches. But its forward-deployed long-range artillery guns are a serious security threat to South Korea's populous metropolitan region, which is only about 30 miles from the border with North Korea.
North Korea has conducted a spate of weapons tests this year in what foreign experts call an attempt to pressure its rivals Washington and Seoul to relax international sanctions against Pyongyang and make other concessions. South Korean and US officials recently said North Korea had almost completed preparations for its first nuclear test in about five years. In a speech at a ruling party meeting last week, Kim emphasized the need to strengthen his country's military capability, saying the current security environment is "very serious." The speech didn't mention the US or South Korea. But he still set forth "militant tasks" to be pursued by his armed forces and scientists, a suggestion that he would press ahead with his high-profile arms buildup plans.
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