North Korea has reportedly carried out a new weapons test, firing two "unidentified projectiles," which could be ballistic missiles, into the sea off its eastern coast, Japan's coast guard and South Korea's military say.
"North Korea appears to have launched possible ballistic missiles," a Japanese coast guard spokesman told AFP about the Monday launch.
South Korea's military also confirmed the launch, with the country's Joint Chiefs of Staff saying, "North Korea fired unidentified projectiles into the East Sea," in reference to the Sea of Japan.
South Korean military added that the North's projectiles were believed to be ballistic missiles fired from Sunan airport.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency, quoting government sources, said North Korea’s projectiles appeared to have landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Japan's Defense Ministry also confirmed later that North Korea's projectiles had landed outside the EEZ.
The new launch would be North Korea's fourth weapons test this month. It was not immediately known what kind of missile was involved in Monday's reported launch.
North Korea fired two railway-borne tactical guided missiles on Friday after it had tested two hypersonic missiles on January 5 and 11.
On January 15, North Korea confirmed the test-firing of two tactical guided missiles, amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and renewed US sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said on Saturday that the tests were held to "check and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment.”
The official news agency stressed that the railway-borne projectiles had hit their designated targets in the East Sea.
North Korea test fired missiles from a train for the first time in September 2021.
In response to Pyongyang's new missile test, the United States last week imposed new sanctions on the country, which Pyongyang described as an act of "provocation." Washington also called on the United Nations Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities.
The North has defended its latest missile tests as a legitimate right to self-defense, warning of a strong response if Washington presses ahead with its provocative move to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korea's foreign ministry spokesperson said the country’s recent launches were just part of its efforts to modernize its national defense capability and did not target any specific country or harm the security of neighboring countries.
Throughout last year, North Korea said it had successfully tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile, a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and a hypersonic warhead.
The administration of US President Joe Biden imposed its first sanctions last Wednesday following the latest series of North Korean missile launches, alleging that the North has refused to respond to its appeals for talks.
Pyongyang says it is open to talks, but only if the United States and others dropped "hostile policies" such as harsh sanctions and joint military drills off the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea also maintains that the United States is intentionally escalating the situation by imposing new sanctions on the country.
Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump took unprecedented steps towards apparently fraternizing the North by initiating several rounds of dialogue with it and even walking a number of steps into the country alongside North Korea's leader.
However, Washington blew, what Pyongyang called a “golden opportunity” at mending the situation by insisting too much on the North’s denuclearization.