North Korea fired at least two ballistic missiles on Friday, its third test in less than two weeks, just hours after criticizing a US push for new sanctions over the previous launches as a “provocation” and warning of a strong reaction.
Two weeks of missile launches by North Korea, retaliatory sanctions designations by the US, and indignant statements by both sides raised the specter of a return to the 2017 days of “fire and fury” threats before a flurry of diplomacy stalled and slipped back into a standoff.
South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting and expressed “strong regret” over the test and called on Pyongyang to return to talks.
“It emphasized that North Korea’s series of missile tests are not helpful for stabilizing the situation of the Korean peninsula at this important time, and urged North Korea to swiftly respond to calls for dialog,” the presidential Blue House said in a statement.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched eastward from Uiju, in North Pyongan province on the North’s west coast, near its border with China.
Japan’s coast guard also said the North fired what could be a ballistic missile. The missiles appeared to have landed in the sea outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, broadcaster NHK said, citing an unnamed Japanese defense ministry official.
“The actions of North Korea, including the repeated ballistic missile launches, are a threat to the safety of our nation and the region, and they are an important issue for all of international society,” Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, told a regular news conference.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said while it assessed that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the US or its allies, it highlighted the “destabilizing impact of the (North’s) illicit weapons program.”
Series of tests
The two missiles traveled about 430 kilometer (267 miles) to a maximum altitude of 36 kilometer (22 miles), South Korea’s JCS said.
The launch is be the third since New Year’s day, an unusually rapid pace of such tests. The previous two were of “hypersonic missiles,” North Korean state media said, or projectiles capable of high speeds and manoeuvering after launch.