North Korea has fired a short-range ballistic missile towards the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea and Japan, the latest in a barrage of weapons tests from the state.
The missile, launched on Sunday from the Dongchang-ri site on the west coast at about 11:05am (02:05 GMT), flew some 800km (500 miles) before hitting a target, according to a South Korean military statement. Japan’s defence ministry said the missile flew as high as 50km (30 miles).
Seoul has condemned the recent ballistic missile launches by North Korea as a “clear violation” of a UN Security Council resolution.
Soon after the launch, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said the US deployed a B-1B strategic bomber to a joint air drill, which Seoul and Washington say they are holding to strengthen extended deterrence.
The launches have also prompted criticism from Tokyo and Washington.
Japanese State Minister of Defense Toshiro Ino said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and that there were no reports of damage to vessels or aircraft in the area. He called the launch “a threat” to the security of Japan, the region and the international community that “absolutely cannot be tolerated”.
“North Korea’s behaviour threatens international peace and security, and is unacceptable,” Ino told a news conference, adding Japan had protested strongly to North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said Sunday’s launch does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or its allies. But the recent missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of Pyongyang’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, it said in a statement.
Ongoing ‘frantic’ drills
The launch comes after North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea’s president flew to Tokyo for a summit that discussed ways to counter their nuclear-armed neighbour.
North Korean state media described the launch of the Hwasong 17 as a response to the ongoing, “frantic” joint drills by South Korea and the United States.
Seoul and Washington have ramped up security cooperation after a year of record-breaking North Korean weapons tests and nuclear threats, kicking off the 11-day drills, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, a week ago on a scale not seen since 2017. The drills, which include computer simulations and field exercises, are to continue until Thursday.
Pyongyang views all such exercises as rehearsals for invasion.
Last year, North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power, and leader Kim Jong Un recently called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.