North Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles After Threat to U.S.

North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile Tuesday toward waters off its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters.
North Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles After Threat to US
North Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles After Threat to US

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles Tuesday toward waters off its east coast after threatening the US to turn the Pacific Ocean into a “firing range” if it holds joint military drills with South Korea.

The two missiles were fired from 7:41 a.m. to 7:51 a.m. from an area about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message sent to reporters. The missiles flew about 620 kms to reach waters off the country’s east coast, it later said, adding the launches “undermined regional peace and stability.”

North Korea said it fired two cruise missiles from a submarine on Sunday and issued a new threat to “mercilessly punish” the US over the drills. While North Korea is not barred by United Nations resolutions from cruise missile tests, the launch from a submarine of the rockets would mark a new step in the state’s ability to potentially deliver a nuclear weapon that could hit US bases in South Korea and Japan. 

The US and South Korea began their “Freedom Shield” exercises on Monday, which will run for 11 days. They are some of the largest joint military drills between the allies in years and designed to bolster their defenses against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. North Korea has decried such drills as a prelude to an invasion and nuclear war. 

The latest launch adds to the barrage of missiles North Korea has fired off in recent weeks, including an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland. UN resolutions bar Pyongyang from ballistic missile tests. 

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May last year, brought back joint military exercises with the US that had been scaled down or halted under Donald Trump. 

The former US president was hoping the move would facilitate his nuclear negotiations with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Those talks, however, produced no concrete steps to wind down Pyongyang’s nuclear program, which has only grown larger as disarmament talks sputtered. 

South Korea President Plans First Visit to Japan in Four Years

Yoon is also looking to expand South Korea’s military cooperation with Japan, a move strongly opposed by North Korea, which lists Tokyo among its mortal enemies. Yoon is due to visit Japan later this week for a rare summit in the country with Kishida. 

South Korea’s spy agency last week briefed lawmakers in parliament on information that North Korea may test-launch its new solid-fuel ICBMs as early as this month.

--With assistance from .

(Updates with additional details on launch in second paragraph.)

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