The South Korean military has described Pyongyang’s decision to fire two ballistic missiles into the sea on Sunday as “very inappropriate”, as the world struggles to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. 

South Korea and Japan said North Korea fired the projectiles from Wonsan, a city in the east of the country, on Sunday morning. 

After flying roughly 143 miles at a maximum altitude of 19 miles, the missiles landed in the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

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South Korea’s military urged its neighbour to refrain from such military action, labelling the launches as “very inappropriate” at a time when the world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. 

Japan’s defence ministry said in a statement that the presumed missiles were thought to have entered the sea outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. 

Referring to these and other short-range projectiles Pyongyang has launched in the past few weeks, the statement added: “Recent repeated firings of ballistic missiles by North Korea is a serious problem to the entire international community including Japan.” 

Experts think that these launches are an attempt to display leader Kim Jong Un’s control in the face of US sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the North Korean leader “wants to show he rules in a normal way amid the coronavirus (pandemic) and his latest weapons tests were aimed at rallying unity internally, not launching a threat externally.”

Pyongyang has so far denied that the country has any coronavirus cases but has acknowledged that the virus is a matter of “national existence”. 

The country’s shortage of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure make it particularly vulnerable to an epidemic. 

Last week, President Donald Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong Un offering cooperation in the fight against the virus.

Additional reporting from AP

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