• Just three days after launching weapons over Japan, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles.
  • South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were launched 22 minutes apart near Pyongyang.
  • North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the east, its second weapons launch in three days, after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier to the region and held joint military exercises with South Korea.

The launches were announced Thursday by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese government. They followed the test of a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile (ICBM) over Japan on Tuesday, the first since 2017.

“This is already the sixth time in a short period, counting only since the end of September,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. “This absolutely cannot be tolerated.”

READ | Japan warns people to ‘seek shelter immediately’ after North Korea fires missile eastwards

The JCS said the missiles were launched 22 minutes apart and took off near North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang.

Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters off the Korean Peninsula in what South Korea’s military said was an attempt to demonstrate the allies’ “firm will” to counter Pyongyang’s continued provocations after the IRBM launch.

Experts said the weapon was likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean and carrying a nuclear warhead.

In a statement released by the foreign ministry, North Korea condemned Washington for changing the aircraft carrier’s position, saying it posed a serious threat to stability.

The USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group of escorting warships were suddenly redeployed following a rare joint missile exercise between the US and South Korea.

North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year amid a long diplomatic stalemate with the United States. Analysts say North Korea is seeking to expand its military arsenal to increase its leverage in upcoming talks with Washington and could soon conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017.

At the United Nations on Wednesday, the United States accused China and Russia of supporting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by blocking efforts to strengthen Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The first missile on Thursday likely flew at an altitude of about 100 km (62 miles) and a range of 350 km (217 miles), while the second had an estimated altitude of 50 km (31 miles) and a range of 800 km (497 miles). probably. which is flying on the wrong trajectory, said Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada.

READ | North Korea calls on the US to “shut up” and denies supplying weapons to Russia

Many of North Korea’s latest short-range ballistic missiles are designed to fly in a lower, lowered trajectory and potentially maneuver, complicating efforts to detect and intercept them.

“North Korea has relentlessly and unilaterally increased its provocations, especially since the beginning of this year,” Hamada told reporters.


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