North Korea leader Kim Jong Un oversaw latest missile launch: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen in this undated picture released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on March 9, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS, AFP) - Kim Jong Un personally oversaw Monday's (March 9) "firepower strike drill", North Korea state media reported on Tuesday, including the launch of what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles for the second time in a week.

North Korea launched multiple projectiles into the sea on Monday as part of firing drills, according to South Korea's military, drawing US and Chinese appeals for Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its nuclear and missile programmes.

Kim was joined by the commanders of the Korean People's Army and expressed "great satisfaction with the result," North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

"The purpose of the firepower strike drill was to inspect the sudden military counterattack capability of the long-range artillery units on the front," KCNA said.

Photos released by KCNA showed troops firing a number of artillery guns, as well as missiles from a multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) with four launching tubes.

The missiles flew up to 200km (124 miles) and reached 50km in altitude, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

The three joint firing drills Kim has supervised in the last fortnight were his first military-related activity this year, Seoul's unification ministry said on Tuesday.

"It is for strengthening internal solidarity and externally, attracting the attention of the US and South Korea and pressuring their change in attitude," it added in a statement.

Britain, Germany, France, Estonia and Belgium raised North Korea's recent launches at the UN Security Council on Thursday, calling them provocative actions that violated UN resolutions.

But North Korea's foreign ministry criticised the European stand as "US-instigated reckless behaviour" and Kim's sister said the drills were not meant to threaten anyone.

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