Kim personally gave the order to launch the rocket barrage from a site close to the South in an apparent act of defiance that puts a personal face of its leader to actions provoking its neighbors.
North Korea routinely fires short range missiles or rockets into waters off its east and west coasts, but state media rarely shows Kim supervising drills so close to South Korea and has only in recent weeks shown the young leader present at short-range ballistic missile and rocket launches.
North Korea has threatened a fourth nuclear test in violation of U.N. sanctions and has test-fired short-range missiles and rockets four times in the past two weeks. Anyway, "Our government takes the firm stance that we will mercilessly retaliate if North Korea fires missiles or artillery south of its border with the DMZ." South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a news briefing.
Photos carried by North's main newspaper showed mobile rocket launchers firing projectiles beside an inter-Korean railway that heads into a mountain range which North Korea has declared a special tourism zone and was once open to South Korean tourists. Satellite imagery and photos released by state media show the rockets were fired several kilometers north of a popular South Korean tourist observatory near the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The roar of rockets and the burning trails from the Soviet-era projectiles on Monday could be seen rising from clouds of smoke between mountains on the North Korean side, footage filmed by staff members at the observatory. "They know South Korean officials will report their missile launches so they've decided to seize the initiative and announce it themselves," said Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership.