North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, Japan’s and South Korea’s militaries said, just hours after a U.S. ballistic missile submarine arrived in a South Korean port for the first time in four decades.
Both of the missiles appeared to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, the Japanese Defence Ministry said.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) called on the North to cease such launches.
We strongly condemn North Korea’s successive ballistic missile launches as grave provocative acts that undermine the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community, and are a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the JCS said in a statement.
The U.S. military said it was aware of the missile launches and was consulting closely with its allies and partners.
The launches do not appear to pose an immediate threat to the United States or to its allies, but the events highlight the destabilising impact of North Korea’s illicit weapons programme, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
The first missile reached an altitude of 50 km (31 miles) and covered a range of 550 km, while the second one rose as high as 50 km and flew 600 km, Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told.
North Korea’s latest firing of ballistic missiles is probably unrelated to an American soldier crossing the inter-Korean border, but such an incident doesn’t help matters either,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
North Korea “undoubtedly opposes” a new U.S.-South Korea nuclear war planning group that met for the first time on Tuesday, as well as the visit of the U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarine, he said.
Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Washington, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Nobuhiro Kubo in Tokyo, and Josh Smith in Seoul; Editing by Doina Chiacu, Eric Beech, Sandra Maler and Sonali Paul.