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North Korea fires multiple ballistic missiles after US-South drills

This file photo shows North Korean state media image of a hypersonic missile test in January 2022.

North Korea has reportedly launched multiple ballistic missiles toward the sea off its east coast, both South Korea’s military and Japan’s coast guard say.

"North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile(s) into the East Sea," Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday morning, referring to the Sea of Japan. The Japanese coast guard also said "possible ballistic missile(s)" had been launched from North Korea, citing the country’s Defense Ministry.

Hours later, Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing government sources, said North Korea had fired multiple missiles.

South Korea’s military also said the North had fired eight short-range ballistic missiles from Pyongyang.

The multiple launch came soon after South Korea and the United States wrapped up large-scale, three-day joint drill involving the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.

Pyongyang has frequently protested against Seoul and Washington's joint military exercises, calling them rehearsals for invasion.

The latest test marks the 18th time that North Korea has fired its missiles this year, including what the US says was a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test on May 4 that exploded shortly after launch.

Last month, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un said he would "strengthen and develop" his country’s nuclear forces at the "highest possible" speed.

US President Joe Biden's administration has failed to restart diplomatic talks with Pyongyang as tensions escalate.

Former US President Donald Trump attempted to court Pyongyang. But even though he met with the North Korean leader three times, he refused to relieve any of the sanctions in return for the several steps taken by Pyongyang toward denuclearization. That hampered further diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington and prompted Kim to announce an end to a moratorium on the country’s missile tests.

North Korea, which has been under rounds of crushing UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, has ramped up missile launches this year, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at full range for the first time since 2017.

China and Russia have voiced opposition to further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea.

Late last year, the two countries pushed the council to remove certain sanctions on the North in recognition of steps Pyongyang had taken up to that time to denuclearize and to encourage further negotiations.

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