North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile at the ocean on Sunday, ramping up testing activities in response to ongoing U.S. South Korean military drills it views as an invasion rehearsal.
The North's continued missile tests showed its determination not to back down despite the U.S. South Korea exercises, which are the biggest of their kind in years. But many experts say the tests are part of North Korea's bigger goal to expand its weapons arsenal, win international recognition as a nuclear state and get international sanctions lifted.
The missile launched from the North southwestern Tongchangri area flew across the country before it landed in the waters off its east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese assessments. The missiles traveled a distance of about 500 miles, a range that suggests the weapon could target South Korea.
The launch of the phone was condemned by the chief nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. and strongly condemned it as a provocation that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and the region. According to Seoul's Foreign Ministry, they agreed to strengthen their coordination to issue a firm international response to North Korea's action.
South Korea's military said it will continue with the rest of the joint drills with the U.S. and maintain a readiness to respond to any provocation by North Korea. According to South Korea's Defense Ministry, the U.S. flew at least one long-range B- 1 B bomber for joint aerial training with South Korean warplanes as part of the drills.
North Korea is highly sensitive to the deployment of B-1 Bs, which are capable of carrying a huge conventional weapon payload. It responded to the February flights of B- 1 Bs by test-launching missiles whose ranges showed they can reach some military airbases in South Korea.
Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said the missile landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of damage to vessels or aircraft in the area. He said that the missile likely showed an irregular trajectory, a possible reference to North Korea's highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN 23 missile that was modeled on Russia's Iskander missile.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launch didn't pose an immediate threat to the U.S. territory or its allies. It said that the North's recent launches highlight the destabilizing impact of its unlawful weapons programs and that the U.S. security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains ironclad. The North's third round of weapons tests came after the U.S. and South Korean militaries began their joint military drills last Monday. The drills, which include computer simulations and field exercises, will continue until Thursday. Since 2018 the field exercises have been the biggest of their kind.
North Korea recently tested its longest-range Hwasong 17 intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the U.S. mainland. The North s state media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying that the ICBM launch was meant to strike fear into the enemies. North Korea has missiles that place Japan within striking distance. In October, North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over northern Japan, forcing communities there to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
After Sunday's launch, Japan's prime minister Fumio Kishida ordered a prompt response, including working closely with South Korea and the U.S., according to Ino, the Japanese vice defense minister.
North Korea fired cruise missiles from a submarine a day before the start of the drills. The North s state media said the submarine-launched missile was a demonstration of its resolve to respond with overwhelming force to the intensifying military maneuvers by the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces.