North Korea fired
four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest early on
Monday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, days after it promised
retaliation over U.S.-South Korea military drills it sees as a
preparation for war.
Korea’s military said the missiles were unlikely to have been
intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which can reach the United
States. The missiles flew on average 1,000 km (620 miles) and reached a
height of 260 km (160 miles).
of the missiles landed in waters as close as 300 km (190 miles) from
Japan’s northwest coast, Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said in
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said “strong protests” had been lodged with nuclear-armed North Korea.
launches are clearly in violation of (United Nations) Security Council
resolutions. It is an extremely dangerous action,” Abe told parliament.
Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn condemned the launches as a
direct challenge to the international community and said Seoul would
swiftly deploy a U.S. anti-missile defense system despite angry
objections from China.
missiles were launched from the Tongchang-ri region near the reclusive
North’s border with China, South Korean military spokesman Roh Jae-cheon
told a briefing. It was too early to say what the relatively low
altitude indicated about the types of missiles, he said.
Joshua Pollack, editor of the U.S.-based Non-Proliferation Review, said it did not appear the North had launched an ICBM.
“It sounds like a field exercise involving deployed missiles, probably ones we’ve seen before,” Pollack said.
U.S. officials, speaking on
condition of anonymity, also told Reuters there were no indications so
far that North Korea had tested an ICBM.
U.S. military said it detected and tracked what it assessed was a North
Korean missile launch, but it did not pose a threat to North America.
North Korea had
threatened to take “strong retaliatory measures” after South Korea and
the United States began annual joint military drills on Wednesday that
test their defensive readiness against possible aggression from the
North Korea criticizes the annual drills and has previously conducted missile launches to coincide with the exercises.
year, North Korea fired a long-range rocket from Tongchang-ri that put
an object into orbit. That launch was condemned by the United Nations
for violating resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile
test-fired a new type of missile into the sea early last month, and has
said it would continue to launch new strategic weapons.
month’s test was the first since the election of U.S. President Donald
Trump, who has vowed to rein in North Korea and its young leader, Kim
Trump’s national security deputies
have reviewed in recent meetings a range of options to counter the
North’s missile threat, the New York Times reported. Options include
direct missile strikes on the North’s launch sites and the possibility
of reintroducing nuclear weapons to the South, the Times said.
options will soon be presented to Trump and his top national security
aides, the report said, quoting U.S. administration officials.
United States withdrew nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 before
the rival Koreas signed a declaration on denuclearization of the Korean
peninsula. North Korea has since walked away from the agreement, citing
the threat of invasion by the United States.
Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test last
September, following what the United States said was an “unprecedented”
level of activity in its banned nuclear and missile programs.
State media said after that test Pyongyang had used a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a ballistic missile.
United States has about 28,500 troops and equipment stationed in the
South, and plans to roll out the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
(THAAD) anti-missile defense system by the end of the year.
also plans to reinforce its ballistic missile defenses and is
considering buying either THAAD or building a ground-based version of
the Aegis system that is currently deployed on ships in the Sea of