Seoul, South Korea — North Korea launched two ballistic missiles towards its eastern waters on Thursday, as the United States redeployed one of its aircraft carriers near the Korean peninsula in response to the North’s recent launch of a powerful missile in over Japan.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launches were made 22 minutes apart from the North Capital Region on Thursday morning.
He said South Korea has strengthened its monitoring posture and remains ready in close coordination with the United States.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also confirmed the North Korean missile launches, saying the weapons fire is “absolutely intolerable”.
Thursday’s launches were North Korea’s sixth round of weapons launches in less than two weeks, drawing condemnation from the United States and other countries.
North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile at Japan on Tuesday for the first time in five years, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
It was North Korea’s most provocative weapons display in years. Experts said the weapon was likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in the Pacific and beyond.
Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters east of South Korea in what the South Korean military called an attempt to demonstrate ‘strong will’ allies to counter ongoing provocations and threats from the North.
The carrier was in the area last week as part of exercises between South Korea and the United States and other allied training involving Japan. North Korea sees these US-led drills near the peninsula as a rehearsal for an invasion.
The United States and South Korea have also responded to North Korean tests with their own live-fire exercises which have so far involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and precision-guided bombs dropped by fighter jets. . But one of the tit-for-tat launches nearly spell disaster on Wednesday morning when a malfunctioning South Korean Hyumoo-2 missile flipped over shortly after takeoff and crashed into an airbase in the eastern coastal town of Gangneung. The South Korean military said no one was injured in the accident and civilian facilities were not affected.
After Tuesday’s launch, the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it strongly condemns “the Korean People’s Army over the joint South Korea-US exercises that escalate military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea has conducted a record number of missile tests this year amid stalled diplomacy with the United States. Observers say North Korea is aiming to expand its nuclear arsenal to boost its influence in future negotiations with the United States.
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