Seoul, South Korea — North Korea launched two ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Thursday as the United States relocated one of its aircraft carriers near the Korean peninsula in response to the North’s recent launch of a powerful missile over Japan.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement Thursday morning’s launches were 22 minutes from the north’s capital region.
It said South Korea had stepped up its surveillance stance and was maintaining a readiness in close coordination with the United States.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also confirmed the North Korean missile launches and said the gunfire was “absolutely unbearable”.
Thursday’s launches marked North Korea’s sixth round of gunfire in less than two weeks, which has drawn condemnation from the United States and other countries.
North Korea on Tuesday fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan for the first time in five years, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation warnings and halt trains.
It was North Korea’s most provocative gun demonstration in years. Experts said the weapon is likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific area of Guam and beyond.
Thursday’s launches came as the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters east of South Korea in what the South Korean military described as an attempt to demonstrate the allies’ “firm will” to counter ongoing provocations and threats from the North.
The carrier was in the area last week as part of exercises between South Korea and the United States and other Allied training involving Japan. North Korea regards such US-led drills near the peninsula as an invasion rehearsal.
The United States and South Korea have also responded to North Korean tests with their own live-fire drills, which have so far included land-to-land ballistic missiles and precision-guided bombs dropped by warplanes. But one of the tit-for-tat launches nearly caused disaster early Wednesday when a malfunctioning South Korean Hyumoo-2 missile rolled over shortly after launch and crashed into an airbase in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung. The South Korean military said no one was injured in the crash and civilian facilities were unaffected.
After Tuesday’s launch, the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday it “strongly condemns the Korean People’s Army in joint exercises between South Korea and the United States, which is escalating military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
North Korea conducted a record number of missile tests this year amid long-stalled diplomacy with the United States. Observers say North Korea intends to expand its nuclear arsenal to increase its leverage in future negotiations with the United States.
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https://6abc.com/north-korea-ballistic-missiles-south-missile-launch/12298213/ North Korea fires 2 missiles toward sea as US redeploys carrier near Korean peninsula