North Korea fires 8 ballistic missiles after US, South Korea hold drills

North Korea fires 8 ballistic missiles after US, South Korea hold drills

North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles towards the sea off its east coast, a day after South Korea and the US wrapped up military exercises involving an American aircraft carrier.

The joint chiefs of staff of South Korea said the missiles were fired from the Sunan area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Sunday. Japan's Kyodo news agency said the North had launched multiple missiles, citing a government source.

On Saturday, the US Navy-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan concluded a three-day naval drill with South Korea in the Philippine Sea, the first joint drill involving a carrier since November 2017.

Pyongyang s launch followed a visit by the US point man on North Korean affairs, special representative Sung Kim, who left on Saturday.

He met his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Kim Gunn and Takehiro Funakoshi, on Friday to prepare for all contingencies, amid signs that North Korea was preparing to conduct a nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

Washington has made very clear to Pyongyang that it is open to diplomacy, Kim said during the visit that he was willing to discuss items of interest to Pyongyang, such as sanctions relief.

The US government called for more UN sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile launches last week, but China and Russia vetoed the suggestion.

Sunday s launch was Pyongyang's 18th round of missile tests in 2022 alone a streak that included the country's first demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles in nearly five years.

South Korean and US officials say there are signs that North Korea is pressing ahead with preparations at its nuclear testing ground in the north-eastern city of Punggye-ri. The North's next nuclear test would be its seventh since 2006 and its first since September 2017 when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear bomb to fit on its ICBMs.

Naval drills by the US-South Korea in international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa included air defence, anti-ship, anti-submarine and maritime interdiction operations. The South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10th, had agreed with the US president Joe Biden to increase military drills to deter North Korea.

North Korea has criticised previous joint drills as a result of Washington's continued hostile policies toward Pyongyang.