North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles towards the eastern waters of the peninsula — the seventh launch in two weeks of weapons tests after South Korea and the United States concluded their latest round of naval drills.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Pyongyang fired the two missiles from the southeastern coastal city of Munchon early on Sunday. The first was fired at about 1:47am local time (16:47 GMT) and the second one some six minutes later.
The Japanese government also said North Korea had fired what appeared to be ballistic missiles.
The two missiles reached an altitude of 100km (60 miles) and covered a range of 350km (217 miles), Japan’s State Minister of Defence Toshiro Ino told reporters.
Both fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and authorities were looking into what kind of missiles were launched, including the possibility that they were submarine-launched ballistic missiles, he said.
South Korea’s military condemned the launches as a “serious provocation” that undermined peace, noting they were a “clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that it was discussing the situation with its allies and partners, and highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s nuclear arms and ballistic missile programmes. It reiterated that the US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan remained “ironclad”.
North Korea has carried out an unprecedented number of weapons tests this year, including its biggest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un steps up efforts to modernise and expand the country’s military capabilities.
The most recent launches have taken place around military exercises held by the US, South Korea and Japan, with naval drills involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan wrapping up on Saturday.
Sunday’s launch also came on the eve of the 77th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, a major event for Pyongyang.