SEOUL: North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday (Oct 6) in the direction of Japan, after the return of a US aircraft carrier to the region and a UN Security Council meeting in response to the North’s recent launches.
The missile launch was the sixth in 12 days and the first since North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile (IRBM) over Japan on Tuesday, which prompted joint South Korean and US missile drills during which one weapon crashed and burned.
The launch was reported by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Japanese government.
“This is the sixth time in the short period, just counting the ones from the end of September,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. “This absolutely cannot be tolerated.”
The launch came about an hour after North Korea condemned the United States for talking to the United Nations Security Council about Pyongyang’s “just counteraction measures of the Korean People’s Army on south Korea-US joint drills,” suggesting its missile tests are a reaction to the allied military moves.
In a statement released by the reclusive nation’s foreign ministry, North Korea also condemned Washington for repositioning a US aircraft carrier off the Korean peninsula, saying it posed a serious threat to the stability of the situation.
The USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group of accompanying warships was abruptly redeployed in response to North Korea’s IRBM launch over Japan.
The United States accused China and Russia on Wednesday of enabling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by blocking attempts to strengthen UN Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is due to speak to Kishida by phone on Thursday, told reporters that his country will ensure its security through its alliance with the United States and cooperation with Japan.
He said the US carrier had entered waters off South Korea late on Wednesday.
Yoon’s national security council warned that North Korea would face a strong international response over the tests.
Tokyo lodged a “vehement protest” with North Korea over Thursday’s launches through delegations in Beijing, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said.
The first missile on Thursday likely flew to an altitude of about 100km and a range of 350km, while the second one had an estimated altitude of 50km and covered 800km, likely flying in an irregular trajectory, he said.
Many of North Korea’s most recent short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) are designed to fly on a lower, depressed trajectory and potentially manoeuvre, complicating efforts to detect and intercept them.
“North Korea has relentlessly and unilaterally escalated its provocation especially since the beginning of this year,” Hamada told reporters.
South Korea’s JCS said the missiles were launched from near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.