North Korea launches multiple ballistic missiles into sea as South Korea warns of ‘grave provocation’
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles Tuesday morning, which landed off the country’s east coast, officials said.
The latest missile launch comes as the U.S. and South Korea continue joint military drills in the region, which Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned. Seoul called the action “a grave provocation” and said it destabilizes the region.
The missiles were launched from the southwestern coastal town of Jangyon and flew approximately 385 miles across North Korea before landing in the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The reported flight distances suggest the missiles could target South Korea, which hosts about 28,000 U.S. troops.
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The launches don’t pose an immediate threat to U.S. forces or its allies, according to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
The U.S. security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “ironclad,” the command said, despite the “destabilizing impact” of the North’s recent tests.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said preliminary information did not report any damage to Japanese territory, although they were still gathering details.
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Pyongyang has claimed the missile tests are being conducted as a show of force while U.S. and South Korean military forces conduct drills and war simulations on the Korean Peninsula.
These military drills are expected to continue until March 23.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ordered military forces last week to be ready to repel what he called the “frantic war preparations moves” by the South.
Just last year, North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles, many capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Pyongyang has also openly threatened to use them in conflicts with the U.S. and South Korea.
Diplomatic relations between the three countries — which resulted in the successful suspension of the North’s nuclear program as negotiated by former U.S. President Donald Trump — have stalled, and peace talks are non-existent under President Biden.
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North Korea has used the time away from the negotiating table to develop its missile arsenal. The country could then use these weapons as leverage in future negotiations.
North Korea and China, which have increased their own aggression in the region, have pushed the United States to become more involved in the Indo-Pacific and to reinforce its alliances with South Korea and Japan.
Some experts have argued, however, strategic partnerships and Washington-Seoul-Tokyo cooperation could prompt Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to strengthen their own trilateral ties.
Tuesday’s launches were Pyongyang’s second weapons test this week.
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On Monday, North Korea fired two cruise missiles from a submarine. Its government also implied that the cruise missiles were being developed to carry nuclear warheads.
Later this week, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is set to visit Kishida in Tokyo, where North Korea is expected to be a major topic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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