Short-range weapons were fired east toward Japan, after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the peninsula.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles eastward, its second weapons launch in three days, after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier to the region and conducted joint military exercises with the South Korea.
Thursday’s launches were reported by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese government. They followed Tuesday’s test of a suspect intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan — the first since 2017.
“It’s the sixth time in the short period counting only those at the end of September,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. “This absolutely cannot be tolerated.”
The JCS said the first missile was launched from a site near the North Korean capital Pyongyang at 06:01 (2101 GMT), the second 22 minutes later.
In a statement, the South Korean military strongly condemned the launches and said they constituted a “clear violation” of United Nations Security Council resolutions. The country’s National Security Council also condemned the launches as an “unacceptable challenge” to the international community and warned against a “stronger response”.
Thursday’s launches came hours after the United States abruptly repositioned its aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in waters off the Korean Peninsula – after rare joint missile exercises with South Korea – In what South Korea’s military called an attempt to demonstrate the “corporate will” of the Allies to counter Pyongyang’s continued provocations after the launch of the IRBM.
Experts said that this weapon was probably a Hwasong-12 missilewhich is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in the Pacific, and can carry a nuclear warhead.
The United Nations Security Council met on Wednesday to discuss the launch of the IRBM, with the United States accusing China and Russia of allowing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to block attempts to strengthen nuclear weapons. sanctions against Pyongyang for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
In a statement to the council, North Korea’s foreign ministry said its launches were “the Korean People’s Army’s righteous counter-action measures on South Korea-US joint exercises.”
He condemned Washington for repositioning the carrier and accused the United States and South Korea of ”escalating military tensions on the Korean peninsula” with their recent drills.
North Korea has carried out an unprecedented number of missile tests this year amid stalled diplomacy with the United States. Analysts say North Korea is aiming to expand its military arsenal to boost its leverage in future negotiations with Washington and may soon conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017.
Japan and South Korea said Thursday’s first missile flew about 350 km (217 miles) to an altitude between 80 km (50 miles) and 100 km (62 miles), while the second covered 800 km (497 miles) at estimated altitude between 50 km (31 miles) and 60 km (37 miles)
Many of North Korea’s newer short-range ballistic missiles are designed to fly on a lower, depressed trajectory and potentially maneuver, complicating efforts to detect and intercept them.
Tokyo lodged a “vehement protest” with North Korea during Thursday’s launches.
“North Korea has relentlessly and unilaterally increased its provocation, especially since the beginning of this year,” Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters.
Despite Pyongyang’s flurry of tests, there appears to be little prospect of international sanctions from the Security Council.
Chinese Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang said the council should play a constructive role “instead of relying solely on strong rhetoric or pressure.”