North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles, the seventh launch in the last two weeks, a news report has claimed. The incident has set alarm bells ringing in Washington and its allies in Tokyo and Seoul.
According to Yonhap reports, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “While strengthening our monitoring and vigilance, our military is maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States.”
AFP reported that North Korea on Saturday defended its recent flurry of missile tests as a legitimate counter to US military threats, following days of joint military exercises between the South, Japan, and the United States.
According to the officials, the rise in the North’s missile launches suggests that it is closer than ever to resuming nuclear testing for the first time since 2017, with preparations observed at its test site for months.
This Sunday’s missiles reached an altitude of 100 km (60 miles) and covered 350 km (218 miles), Japan’s state minister of defence, Toshiro Ino, told reporters.
The first was fired at about 1:47am local time (16:47 GMT) and the second some six minutes later.
The official told Reuters that the missiles 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.
The US 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.
However, the US claimed that the latest launches did not pose a threat to US personnel or American allies.
The Japanese prime minister’s office also confirmed at least one of Sunday’s missiles on Twitter.
The office said: “North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile. More updates to follow.”