North Korea on Monday fired four banned ballistic missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers, with three of them landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, South Korean and Japanese officials said, in an apparent reaction to huge military drills by Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal.
It was not immediately clear the exact type of missile fired; Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various ranges in recent months, including a new intermediate-range missile in February. The ramped-up tests come as leader Kim Jong Un pushes for a nuclear and missile program that can deter what he calls US and South Korean hostility toward the North.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday’s firing shows that North Korea has become “a new kind of threat”. Japanese officials said three of the four missiles landed in the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where Tokyo has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources.
South Korea’s joint Chief of Staff said in a statement that Monday’s launches were made from the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province. The area is the home of the North’s Seohae Satellite Station where it has conducted prohibited long-range rocket launches in recent years.
The US military said on Sunday it detected and tracked what it assessed was a North Korean missile launch at 4:34pm CST (2234 GMT), but added the launch did not pose a threat to North America.
US Strategic Command spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin O’Donnell said US forces “remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security”.
The US military did not provide further details about the launch.
Seoul and Washington call their military drills on the Korean Peninsula, which remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty, defensive and routine.