North Korea has reportedly fired two “unidentified projectiles” that appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, in its sixth round of weapons launches this month, amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported the launch in a statement on Thursday, saying the missiles were fired five minutes apart at about 8 a.m. (2300 GMT) from the eastern coastal town of Hamhung and flew 190 kilometers (118 miles) at an altitude of 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) before landing at sea.
Seoul’s presidential office said in a statement that South Korea’s National Security Council has convened an emergency meeting to discuss North’s continuing launches and urged Pyongyang to recommit to dialog.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who described North Korea’s repeated missile firings as “extremely regrettable,” said the government was still gathering details on the launches, and that there have so far been no reports of damage to vessel and aircraft around the Japanese coast.
Thursday’s launch comes as Pyongyang has stepped up its weapons tests to defend itself against what it views as a “hostile” United States.
Last week, North Korea said it may consider resuming “all temporarily suspended” activities to boost its defenses against Washington’s “military threats,” an apparent reference to a self-imposed moratorium on tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, which has been in place since 2017.
On Tuesday, Pyongyang fired two cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast, adding to the tension over its tests.
Earlier in the month, North Korea tested tactical guided missiles, two “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and maneuvering after lift-off, and a railway-borne missile system.
In response to Pyongyang’s new missile tests, the United States imposed new sanctions on the country earlier in the month, 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.
“The recent test-firing of new types of weapons was part of activities for carrying out a medium- and long-term plan for development of national science,” North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Han Tae Song said in a speech on Tuesday.
“It does not pose any threat or damage to the security of neighboring countries and the region.”
He also slammed the United States for staging hundreds of “joint war drills” while shipping high-tech offensive military equipment into South Korea and nuclear strategic weapons into the region.
“(This) is seriously threatening the security of our state,” Han said.
The administration of US President Joe Biden imposed its first sanctions on January 12 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.
Pyongyang has also been under harsh UN sanctions for its missile and nuclear activities.