(ATTN: UPDATES with diplomats' phone talks in 12th para)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) into the East Sea on Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions amid an ongoing South Korea-U.S. naval exercise involving an American aircraft carrier.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launches from the Sunan area in Pyongyang between 6:10 p.m. and 6:20 p.m., and that the missiles flew some 360 kilometers at apogees of around 30 km at top speeds of about Mach 6.
It did not provide other details, saying the intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a detailed analysis to verify the specifics of the missiles.
The launches came just three days after the North fired off an SRBM into the East Sea
JCS Chairman Gen. Kim Seung-kyum and Gen. Paul LaCamera, the commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, held virtual talks over the launches and reaffirmed their commitment to further solidify a combined defense posture against "any" North Korean threats and provocations, according to the JCS.
"Such provocative acts by North Korea would further strengthen deterrence and response capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and only deepen its isolation from the international community," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
It also condemned the launches as an act of "significant provocation" that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula as well as in the international community, and as a "clear" breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"Our military will maintain a firm readiness posture based on the capabilities to respond overwhelmingly to any North Korean threats while tracking and monitoring related movements in close coordination with the U.S. in preparation against the possibility of additional North Korean provocations," the JCS added.
The presidential National Security Council strongly condemned the launches as repeated violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions and reaffirmed its stance to strengthen the combined defense posture between the allies.
National Security Adviser Kim Sung-han chaired an emergency meeting of the top national security body shortly after Pyongyang fired the missiles, the presidential office said.
President Yoon Suk-yeol was briefed on the launches, it said.
Seoul's top nuclear envoy, Kim Gunn, held separate phone talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts, Sung Kim and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively. They denounced the missile launches and agreed to continue reinforcing bilateral and trilateral cooperation.
Informed sources said that the two SRBMs appeared to have been fired from road-mobile launchers.
Military authorities are putting weight on the possibility of the launches involving the KN-23 missile modeled after Russia's Iskander ballistic missile. The KN-23 is known for its "pull-up maneuver," designed to avoid interception.
The latest saber-rattling came as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit Seoul on Thursday and the allies' Navies are staging an exercise featuring the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan carrier in the East Sea.
The U.S. carrier, a centerpiece of America's naval might, arrived here on Friday for the first allied exercise near the peninsula in five years. The four-day exercise is set to run through Thursday.
The allies have been cranking up security coordination amid concerns that the recalcitrant regime would engage in provocative acts like a nuclear test or a submarine-launched ballistic missile launch.