SEOUL, Sept 28 (Reuters) – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, a day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in Seoul, South Korea’s military said.
The launch came two days after South Korean and US forces conducted military drills in waters off South Korea’s east coast involving an aircraft carrier. On Sunday, North Korea fired another ballistic missile into the sea from its east coast.
Wednesday’s missiles were launched from the Sunan area of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, between 0910-0920 GMT between 6:10 and 6:20 p.m., South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
They flew about 360 km (225 miles), reached an altitude of 30 km (19 miles) and reached a maximum speed of Mach 6 (4,600 mph or 7,450 kmh), he said, adding that a detailed analysis is underway.
“North Korea’s provocations will further strengthen South Korea-US deterrence and response capabilities and further isolate North Korea from the international community,” the joint chiefs said in a statement.
South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting and condemned the test and vowed to continue building “tremendous” capabilities to deter North Korea, President Yoon Suk-yeol’s office said in a separate statement.
North Korean state media did not mention the report of the latest launch, but its leader Kim Jong Un has said the development of nuclear weapons and missiles is to defend North Korea against US threats.
Japan’s coast guard also reported a suspected ballistic missile test, which Defense Minister Toshiro Ino condemned as “unacceptable”. He said Pyongyang’s repeated missile launches threatened Japanese and international security.
After a stopover in Japan, Harris will land in the South Korean capital and visit the neighboring country’s heavily fortified demilitarized zone (DMZ) on Thursday.
Speaking hours before the destroyer USS Howard docked in the Japanese city of Yokosuka, Harris called Sunday’s missile launch “part of an illegal weapons program that threatens regional stability and violates multiple UN Security Council resolutions.”
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launch highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of the North’s illicit weapons programs.
A US State Department spokesman also condemned the test as a regional threat, but Washington remained committed to a diplomatic approach and urged Pyongyang to engage in dialogue.
North Korea has tested missiles at an unprecedented rate this year, while this week’s joint drills are a show of force intended to warn of what could be Pyongyang’s first nuclear test since 2017.
The isolated country has completed preparations for a nuclear test, which could open a window between China’s party congress in October and the US midterm elections in November, South Korean lawmakers said on Wednesday. Read on
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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Kantaro Komiya and Trevor Hunnicutt in Tokyo and Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Robert Birsell, Clarence Fernandez and Mark Heinrich
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