SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s military said Sunday that North Korea fired a projectile into its eastern sea, a likely effort to advance its weapons program while also challenging the young Trump administration in Washington.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the projectile was fired from an area in the country’s western region around Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, which is where South Korean officials have said the country test launched its powerful midrange missile Musudan on Oct. 15 and 20.
An official from Seoul’s Defense Ministry says it isn’t clear whether the projectile was a ballistic missile. The official didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.
The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Kim Dong-yeop, an analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said that the projectile could be a Musudan or a similar rocket designed to test engines for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his annual New Year’s address that the North’s preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile have “reached the final stage.”