North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile toward sea after Covid outbreak

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North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile toward sea after Covid outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea and Japan said on Thursday that North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the sea, the latest in a series of weapons demonstrations this year, and just hours after it confirmed its first case of the coronaviruses since the epidemic began.

Japan's Defense Ministry said that the missile fired by North Korea was a possible ballistic missile. It gave no other details.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a brief statement that the missile flew toward North Korea's eastern waters. It didn't give any details.

North Korean state media confirmed the country's first Covid 19 infections on Thursday, as leader Kim Jong Un ordered nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the disease. Kim ordered officials to bolster the country's defense posture to avoid any security vacuum.

North Korea has launched a series of missiles this year in an attempt to put pressure on its rivals amid stalled nuclear diplomacy. Despite the elevated anti-viruses steps, experts say that North Korea is likely to continue its weapons tests to try to strengthen national unity.

The 16th round of tests this year was conducted in North Korea on Thursday. They have included the North's first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, and there are signs that the North is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in five years at a remote testing ground in its northeast.