A file image of preparations for a North Korean missile launch
Kim Jong Un Stars In Wild Hollywood-Style North Korea Missile Launch Video Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The South Korean military claimed that North Korea fired two projectiles into waters off the east of the Korean Peninsula Saturday evening in the presence of the country's leader Kim Jong-un.

In new images, Kim was seen smiling and clapping as he observed the test firing of what the North Korea state-owned newspaper Rodong Sinmun called a "new tactical weapon," reported CNN.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement Sunday that the projectiles were fired from North Korea's Hamhung area around 6 pm. The statement further read that they flew about 68.3 miles at an altitude of 15.5 miles, with a maximum speed of Mach 4.0 or lower.

Kim had observed the test firing of a "new-type tactical guided weapon," which was "carried out successfully," North Korean state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Sunday. The new weapon boosted North Korea's "frontline long-range artillery units," said KCNA. It also reportedly increased efficiency "in the operation of tactical nukes of the country and diversification of their firepower missions."

Al Jazeera reported that Kim, who guided the test, “gave important instructions on further building up the defense capabilities and nuclear combat forces" of North Korea.

According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff statement, South Korea's military, intelligence agencies and National Security Office held an emergency meeting to assess the situation and discuss countermeasures soon after the launch. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is getting real-time reports from the National Security Office, his spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee said in a statement Sunday. The South Korean President has also ordered the relevant government ministries to inspect North Korea's movements.

A spokesperson for the US Department of Defense in a statement said that they are aware of the "North Korean statement that they conducted a test of a long range artillery system," and that they analyze all "activities in close coordination with our allies and partners." The statement further read that the US is "very clear on our commitment to the defense of (South Korea), Japan, and the US homeland."

North Korea had been aiming to make missiles that can evade defense systems, with "features that can fly them under the US and South Korea's radars," said Duyeon Kim, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. She added that these types of missiles are especially "threatening to South Korea and Japan and they're weapons that can be used in or even start a conflict."

This was the first time North Korea has "specifically ascribed a tactical nuclear weapons' role for a missile at a test," according to Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

According to The New York Times, the missile test, which is North Korea’s 12th of the year, took place as South Korea and America were preparing to begin joint military exercises.

North Korean missile launch
People watch a TV at the Seoul Railway Station showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch on March 24, 2022 in Seoul, South Korea. North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) toward the East Sea on Thursday, South Korea's military said, a move sharply escalating tensions in the region. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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