North Korea fires missiles toward Japan
North Korea has fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korean and Japanese defense officials, who condemned the show of force as a threat to regional stability.
The South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) detailed the latest missile launches on Saturday, as cited in local press reports, saying the three projectiles were fired around 8am from the DPRK’s North Hwanghae Province, located south of the capital. According to Yonhap news agency, it was the first time the area has been used as a ballistic missile site.
The military was quick to denounce the move, vowing to step up joint surveillance efforts with the United States “in preparation for further provocations by North Korea” and to be ready to “overwhelmingly respond” in force if needed.
All three munitions were fired from a mobile launch vehicle, the JCS said, adding that they each flew about 350km (217 miles) northeast in the direction of the Sea of Japan – known as the East Sea in the Koreas.
The North Korean launches may have come in response to a successful trial of Seoul’s new solid-fuel rocket on Thursday, which officials say will be used to construct a space-based surveillance apparatus focused on Pyongyang. The South has stressed the need to bolster its air defenses in recent days, namely after at least five North Korean drones penetrated its airspace earlier this week.
Japan’s Defense Ministry also noted the most recent weapons test and clarified that while the missiles flew toward its territory, none entered its exclusive economic zone, which extends some 370km (229 miles) from the country’s coast.
“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threatens the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that aircraft and ships along the missiles’ flight path were alerted, but that there had been no incidents “at this time.”
The latest missile launch comes amid a flurry of military activity on the Korean Peninsula this year, with Pyongyang conducting a record number of weapons tests in 2022, including a number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), as well as around 70 shorter-range projectiles and three cruise missiles, Yonhap reported. Seoul has also dramatically ramped up joint military drills with the United States and Japan, carrying out some of its largest-ever aerial exercises alongside US warplanes earlier this year.