North Korea has fired at least two ballistic missiles, the third test in two weeks, just hours after criticising a US push for new sanctions over the previous launches as a “provocation” and warning of a strong reaction.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said on Friday it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched eastwards from North Pyongan province on the west coast of North Korea.
The two missiles travelled about 430km (267 miles) to a maximum altitude of 36km (22 miles), according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.
Japan’s coastguard also reported the North fired what could be a ballistic missile.
“North Korea’s ongoing military activity, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, are threats to the peace and safety of Japan and the region, and are serious concerns for all of the international society,” said Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary.
Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean navy officer who teaches at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, said North Korea could have fired previously deployed SRBMs such as the KN-23 or KN-24.
“It could fit in their ongoing winter exercises, while sending a message to the United States through action following the state media statement,” he said.
If the launch is confirmed it will be the third since January 5, when Pyongyang launched what it later said was a hypersonic missile. Leader Kim Jong Un observed the second test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the first time he has been pictured at a launch in nearly two years.
Hypersonic weapons travel faster and are more manoeuvrable than conventional missiles and are also being developed by China, Russia and the United States.