North Korea on Sunday fired a pair of ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters in its first weapons test in a month. The launch came two days after the country said it had conducted a key test needed to build a more mobile, powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) designed to strike the US mainland.
Statement from The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said that two North Korean ballistic missiles launched from the Tongchang-ri area were detected by its military, the Associated Press reported.
The statement said the missiles flew over South Korea and were fired about 50 minutes apart. Details related to the type of weapon fired and the accuracy of how far it flew were not available to South Korean officials.
South Korea’s armed forces have reportedly “strengthened their surveillance posture” and are maintaining readiness in close coordination with the US, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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Japanese officials said both missiles landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. There were no reports of casualties or damage to vessels.
Deputy Minister of Defense of Japan Toshiro Ino told the Associated Press that both missiles flew 310 miles at a maximum altitude of 550 miles. Ino criticized North Korea for “threatening the security of Japan, the region and the international community.”
North Korea’s Sohe test site is located in the Tunchang-ri area, from where the country has launched long-range missiles with satellites in past years. The UN described the operations as a disguised test of ICBM technology.
North Korea said on Friday it had tested a “powerful solid fuel engine” for a new strategic weapon at the Sohar facility on Thursday. Experts say the development could allow the country to have a more mobile arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles that would be harder to detect and could reach the US mainland, AP reports.
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Sunday’s launch was the country’s first public test of the weapon since it launched its developed long-range liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-17 last month. This weapon is reportedly capable of reaching the entire United States.
Leader Kim Jong-un pledged to acquire a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile during a major ruling party conference early last year. Other weapons systems Kim has promised to produce include a multiple-warhead missile, submarine-launched nuclear missiles and spy satellites.
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According to the AP, North Korea conducted a series of test launches in 2022 at a record pace despite pressure from the United States to end its nuclear program and economic hardships related to the pandemic.
North Korea has said that its weapons tests are a measure of self-defense against “invasion rehearsals” between the US and South Korea, which are really just an extension of military exercises. Experts believe that North Korea likely used the training as an excuse to increase its weapons arsenal and gain leverage in future negotiations with the United States.
In addition to the expanded regular exercises, the South Korean and US militaries have also resumed trilateral exercises with Japan in response to North Korea’s tests.
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Real status A nuclear strike by North Korea possibility remains unknown. Some people believe the country already has operational nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting all of the US, South Korea and Japan, while others think it will be years before a weapon of this magnitude is acquired.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.