North Korea fired Thursday two ballistic missiles as it pointed out that its recent blitz of tests were necessary countermeasures against joint military drills by the United States and South Korea.
As the United Nations Security Council met to discuss Pyongyang’s Tuesday launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, North Korea blamed Washington for “escalating the military tensions on the Korean peninsula.”
The recent launches — six in less than two weeks — were “the just counteraction measures of the Korean People’s Army on South Korea-US joint drills,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry justified in a statement Thursday.
Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington have ramped up joint military drills in recent weeks, including large-scale naval manoeuvers and anti-submarine exercises.
Seoul announced Wednesday that the United States will redeploy the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan to waters east of South Korea for a second visit in less than a month.
In response, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry considered in a statement by the official KCNA news agency that this posed “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula.”
Early on Thursday, South Korea’s military confirmed it had detected two short-range ballistic missiles launched from the Samsok area in Pyongyang toward the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.
The first missile traveled 350 kilometers (217 miles) at a maximum altitude of around 80 kilometers, according to their analysis, with the second flying 800 kilometers at an altitude of 60 kilometers.
An official from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that it appears to be the first time North Korea has fired missiles from Samsok, adding that they look like a “different type of short-range ballistic missiles” from previous launches.
Tokyo also confirmed the launches, with Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada telling reporters that it was important not to “overlook the significant improvement of (North Korea’s) missile technology.”
Pyongyang’s Tuesday firing of what officials and analysts said was a Hwasong-12 that traveled likely the longest horizontal distance of any North Korean test, prompted the United States to call for an emergency Security Council meeting.
At the meeting, Deputy Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Geng Shuang, said North Korea’s recent launches were “closely related” to military exercises in the region conducted by the United States and its allies.
Geng accused the US of “poisoning the regional security environment.”
On her part, US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called for “strengthening” existing sanctions on North Korea, something China and Russia vetoed in May.
Officials in Seoul and Washington have been warning for months that Pyongyang will conduct another nuclear test, likely after the Chinese Party Congress on October 16.
Source: Agencies (edited by Al-Manar English Website)