| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

North Korea fires two ballistic missiles in seventh of recent launches

Authorities in neighboring nations say North Korea launched two ballistic missiles early Sunday, the seventh such launch by Pyongyang in recent days, adding to broad concern in Washington and its allies in Tokyo and Seoul.

Officials in South Korea’s capital have speculated that the North’s recent missile launches may indicate that it is closer than ever to restarting nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, with preparations being detected at its test site for months.

Both of Sunday’s missiles reached an altitude of 100 km (60 miles) and covered 350 km (218 miles), Japan’s state minister of defense, Toshiro Ino, told reporters.

The first was fired at about 1:47 a.m. (1647 GMT) and the second some six minutes later.

They fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and authorities were looking into what type they were, including the possibility that they were submarine-launched ballistic missiles, he added.

The U.S. military said it was consulting closely with allies and partners following the launches, which it said highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of the North Korean nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs.

Still, the United States assessed that the latest launches did not pose a threat to U.S. personnel or American allies.

“The U.S. commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad,” the Hawaii-based U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.

The latest missile launches from the Muncheon area on North Korea’s east coast are a “serious provocation” that harms peace, South Korean authorities said.

On Tuesday, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile farther than ever before, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning to residents there to take cover.

Ino said Tokyo would not tolerate the repeated actions by North Korea. The incident was the seventh such launch since Sept. 25.

Japan’s foreign ministry said the nuclear envoys of the United States, South Korea and Japan held a telephone call and shared the view that the North’s ballistic missile launches threatened the peace and security of the region and the international community, besides posing a civil aviation risk.

North Korea, which has pursued missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, said on Saturday its missile tests were for self-defense against direct U.S. military threats and had not harmed the safety of neighbors.

“Our missile tests are a normal, planned self-defense measure to protect our country’s security and regional peace from direct U.S. military threats,” said state media KCNA, citing an aviation administration spokesperson.

South Korea and the United States held joint maritime exercises on Friday, a day after Seoul scrambled fighter jets in reaction to an apparent North Korean bombing drill.

In reaction to North Korea’s latest missile launches, the US also announced fresh penalties on Friday.

When asked about the launches on Sunday, North Korea’s neighbor and friend China alluded to joint military drills undertaken by the US and its partners around the Korean peninsula.

“The United States’ words should match its deeds, its attitude that it has no ill intent toward North Korea should convert into acts, and it should provide the circumstances for the resumption of meaningful conversation,” foreign ministry spokesman Mao Ning said at a regular press conference.

  • Reuters