North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday, hours after US Vice President Kamala Harris flew home from a visit to South Korea during which she emphasised the “ironclad” US commitment to the security of its Asian allies.
It was the third round of missile launches by North Korea this week, extending a record pace in weapons testing as the country accelerates a push to expand its arsenal and pressure Washington to accept it as a nuclear power.
Japan’s military said it also detected a launch. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and fired one before she left Washington on Sunday.
Public broadcaster NHK said the projectile “appears to have fallen outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone”, citing unnamed sources from the defence ministry.
Harris earlier capped her four-day trip to Asia with a meeting with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and a stop at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) dividing the Korean Peninsula, where she addressed the threat posed by the increasingly hostile North.
Speaking at the DMZ, Harris said the US commitment to South Korea’s defence was “ironclad”, adding that the allies were “aligned” in their response to the growing threat posed by the North’s weapons programmes.
Washington has about 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to help protect it from North Korea, and the allies are conducting a large-scale joint naval exercise this week in a show of force.
Then a US officer pointed out some of the defences along the military demarcation line, including barbed-wire fences and claymore mines. He said American soldiers regularly walk patrols along a path.