North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles at sea off the east coast on Saturday. According to the South Korean military, this was the fourth launch in a week. The two short-range missiles were launched north of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, the South Korean general staff said in a statement. The Japanese Coast Guard also reported at least two suspected ballistic missile tests. The missiles flew 359 and 400 kilometers, respectively, said Japanese Defense Minister Toshiro Ino.
The rocket launch took place after the South Korean naval forces, the United States and Japan on Friday held trilateral anti-submarine exercises for the first time in five years, in which the American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan also participated. It was the first deployment of an aircraft carrier to South Korea in nearly four years.
It was already the fourth rocket launch this week. Most recently, North Korea had only a few hours after the departure of the American Vice President on Thursday Kamala Harris from South Korea undertook a test with two ballistic missiles. During her visit to the inter-Korean border, Harris used unusually strong language to criticize North Korea as a “brutal dictatorship with rampant human rights abuses and an illegal arms program that threatens peace and stability”.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement Saturday that the missile tests posed “no immediate threat” to the United States and its allies, but underscored the “destabilizing effect of North Korea’s illicit” missile programs.
Tensions in the region have risen sharply following a series of nuclear-capable missile tests by North Korea this year. The country is also reportedly preparing to launch a submarine ballistic missile and possibly its first nuclear test since 2017.
North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006, which the Security Council has steadily and unanimously tightened over the years. North Korea is to be prevented from financing its nuclear weapons and missile programs. However, North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong-un is not going to be deterred from his course because he sees his country as a threat from the United States. North Korea recently passed a new nuclear weapons law that provides for the right to carry out a nuclear first strike in self-defense. The status as a nuclear power was enshrined as “irreversible”.