Nuclear-armed North Korea successfully tested “super-large multiple rocket launchers”, state media said on Monday, but leader Kim Jong Un was not described as commanding the drill as analysts say Pyongyang seeks to normalize its launches.
Unusually, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not say in its report that Kim had directed Sunday’s test.
South Korea had said two projectiles - presumed to be ballistic missiles - were fired on Sunday from the North Korean port city of Wonsan into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
The leader is almost always shown overseeing the North's launches but on this occasion KCNA said it was led by ruling party vice chairman Ri Pyong Chol and conducted by the Academy of National Defense Science.
Images carried by the North's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed rockets blasting out of a launcher with six firing tubes, striking what appeared to be an island target. Kim was not seen in the photos.
“By Kim’s absence, North Korea is trying to reduce the significance of the launch and stressing that the missile test is just a part of normal drills,” said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies.
The last time Kim was not seen at such an event was when the North test-fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile in October, just days before officials from Pyongyang and Washington were due to meet in Stockholm to rekindle stalled diplomacy.
However some analysts believe he was actually present, as some items he habitually uses were visible.