North Korea Launches 2 Missiles, Its 7th Weapons Test in a Month

WORLD

By Choe Sang-Hun

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday, two days after South Korea decided to pull out of a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan.

The missiles were launched from Sondeok near the North’s eastern coast and flew 235 miles, the South Korean military said in a brief statement. It was the seventh time North Korea had tested short-range ballistic missiles or other projectiles since late last month.

South Korean defense officials provided no further details on the latest launch, adding that they were analyzing data acquired through radar and other intelligence-gathering equipment.

The tests came after South Korea decided on Thursday to terminate an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan under which the two key allies of the United States had shared tracking data on missiles fired by the North. The South’s decision to abandon the agreement takes effect in 90 days.

On Saturday, Japan requested South Korean intelligence on the North’s latest launch, and the South planned to comply because the information-sharing arrangement was still in effect, the South Korean military said. Japan said the missiles had landed well outside its territorial waters and posed no immediate threat to its security.

South Korea decided to pull out of the deal, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA, in retaliation against a series of trade restrictions Japan has imposed since early July, including the removal of South Korea from its list of countries favored with preferential trade treatment.

Japan had questioned South Korea’s trustworthiness in handling sensitive security-related products when it downgraded its trade partner’s status. The South said it could not share sensitive military intelligence with such a country.

The United States expressed “strong concern and disappointment” about the South Korean decision.

Seoul and Tokyo signed the agreement in late 2016 after years of urging from Washington, which wanted its two key Asian allies to work more closely to confront North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile threats and China’s growing influence in the region.

The information-sharing pact was part of Washington’s broader effort to ensure that the United States and its two allies responded more quickly and efficiently to regional threats by sharing information seamlessly. Its importance has been highlighted by North Korea’s recent series of launches.