North Korea fires more missiles; second launch in three days

North Korea fires more missiles; second launch in three days

Short-range weapons were fired east towards Japan, after the US redeployed an aircraft carrier close to the peninsula.

North Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles eastwards, its second weapons launch in three days, after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier to the region and carried out joint military drills with South Korea.

Thursday’s launches were reported by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the Japanese government. They followed Tuesday’s test of a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) over Japan — the first since 2017.

“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 JCS said the missiles were launched 22 minutes apart and originated near North Korea’s capital Pyongyang.

Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters off the Korean peninsula in what South Korea’s military called an attempt to demonstrate the allies’ “firm will” to counter Pyongyang’s continued provocations following the IRBM launch.

Experts said that weapon was probably a Hwasong-12 missile, which is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam in the Pacific, and can carry a nuclear warhead.

In a statement released by its foreign ministry, North Korea condemned Washington for repositioning the carrier, saying it posed a serious threat to stability.

The USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group of accompanying warships were abruptly redeployed following rare joint missile drills by the US and South Korea.

North Korea has carried out an unprecedented number of missile tests this year amid long-stalled diplomacy with the US. Analysts say North Korea aims to expand its military arsenal to boost its leverage in future negotiations with Washington and may soon carry out its first nuclear test since September 2017.

At the United Nations on Wednesday, the US accused China and Russia of enabling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by blocking attempts to strengthen Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

The first missile on Thursday probably flew to an altitude of about 100km (62 miles) and a range of 350km (217 miles), while the second one had an estimated altitude of 50km (31 miles) and covered 800km (497 miles), probably flying in an irregular trajectory, Japan’s Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said.

Many of North Korea’s most recent short-range ballistic missiles 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.

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