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North Korea fires two ballistic missiles amid high tensions

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing a ballistic missile off its east coast, in Seoul, South Korea, on December 18, 2022. (Via Reuters)

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea off the Korean Peninsula's east coast, South Korean military and Japanese officials say.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the medium-range missiles, launched "at steep angles" on Sunday morning, flew about 500 km and landed in the East Sea, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan. 

Japan's Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said the missiles seemed to have landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). 

The missile launch comes just days after North Korea tested a high-thrust solid-fuel engine that experts said would allow quicker and more mobile launch of ballistic missiles. 

North Korea has conducted a number of missile tests this year, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the US mainland.

Last month, it test-fired its longest-range liquid-fueled Hwasong-17 ICBM that landed just 200 kilometers off Japan. Dubbed as the “monster missile,” it is designed to carry multiple warheads.

The United States and South Korea have claimed for months that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.

Pyongyang's new test came after Japan on Friday unveiled its biggest military build-up since World War Two with a $320 billion plan that will buy missiles
capable of striking China and ready it for sustained conflict.

Military tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen sharply this year as the US has resumed massive land, naval and aerial war games with South Korean and Japanese forces in the region – measures that North Korea regards as practice drills to invade the country. 

North Korea maintains it will not tolerate US-led war games in the region, vowing to continue responding with its own drills.

The country is under multiple UN Security Council sanctions since 2006, but the measures have not prevented it from expanding its nuclear and missile  capabilities.

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