North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles Tuesday morning that landed on the country’s east coast, officials said.
The latest missile launch comes amid continued joint military drills by the US and South Korea in the region, which Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned. Seoul called the action a “serious provocation” and said it destabilized the region.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were launched from the southwestern coastal city of Jangyeong and traveled about 385 miles into North Korea before landing in the ocean.
The reported flight distance suggests the missiles could target South Korea, which is home to about 28,000 US troops.
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According to the US Indo-Pacific Command, the launches do not pose an immediate threat to the US military or its allies.
Despite the “destabilizing effect” of North Korea’s recent tests, the command said the US security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “iron”.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that preliminary information showed no damage on 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 US and South Korean military forces conduct exercises and war simulations on the Korean Peninsula.
These military exercises are expected to continue till March 23.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week ordered military forces to be ready to repel what the South called a “frantic war preparation move”.
Last year alone, North Korea tested more than 70 missiles, many capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Pyongyang has even openly threatened to use them in conflicts with the US 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 US President Donald Trump – have stalled, and peace talks under President Biden are non-existent.
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North Korea has used the time away from the negotiating table to develop its missile arsenal. The country can then use these weapons as leverage in future negotiations.
North Korea and China, which have increased their own aggression in the region, have prompted the US to become more involved in the Indo-Pacific region and strengthen its alliances with South Korea and Japan.
Some experts have argued, however, that the strategic partnership and Washington-Seoul-Tokyo cooperation may prompt Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to strengthen their own trilateral ties.
Tuesday’s launch was Pyongyang’s second weapons test this week.
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North Korea fired two cruise missiles from a submarine on Monday. Its government also implied that cruise missiles were being developed to carry nuclear warheads.
Later this week, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is due 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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