On Tuesday, the military of South Korea reported that North Korea launched a pair of short-range ballistic missiles into the sea located on its eastern coast. This action is among the series of weapons tests conducted while the South and the United States are performing their largest joint military exercises in years.
The missiles were fired about 7:40 a.m. (2240 GMT on Monday) from South Hwanghae province, near the country’s west coast, and flew about 620 kilometres, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The South Korean military was on high alert and maintaining full readiness posture in close coordination with the United States, the JCS said in a statement. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan was collecting information on the missile, and that they have not confirmed any damage within the country related to the launch.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the missiles have not been confirmed to have flown into Japan’s territory or exclusive economic zones.
“We see there is a possibility that North Korea will step up further provocative actions, including missile launches and nuclear tests,” Matsuno said. “We will continue a close cooperation with the U.S. and South Korea over North Korea’s military moves, and gather and analyse information with surveillance.”
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launches did not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to its allies, but said the North’s unlawful weapons programmes had a destabilising effect.
South Korea’s military strongly denounced North Korea’s repeated missile launches, considering them a severe provocation that poses a threat to the peace and security of the region. A spokesperson for South Korea’s defense ministry stated that the South Korea-U.S. alliance would continue their exercises and training as planned, despite North Korea’s attempts to hinder their Freedom Shield drills with provocative actions.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson also criticized the missile launches as a violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
The latest missile launch occurred two days after North Korea test-fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine and less than a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the military to intensify drills to deter and respond to a real war if necessary.
South Korean and American forces began their 11-day joint drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23,” on Monday to counter North Korea’s growing threats. North Korea has long regarded the allies’ drills as a rehearsal for invasion.
On Sunday, North Korean state media KCNA reported that the country had decided to take “important practical” war deterrence measures, saying that war provocations by the U.S. and South Korea were reaching the red line.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday that the U.S. would not be deterred by any steps North Korea takes or be constrained from actions deemed necessary to safeguard stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Additionally, the United States plans to hold an informal meeting with United Nations Security Council members on Friday to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea. North Korea’s foreign ministry condemned the planned meeting as the most intensive expression of U.S. hostile policy against Pyongyang and warned that it would take the toughest counteraction.