North Korea launches 2 missiles toward sea after US-South Korea drills

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The U.S. carrier USS Ronald Reagan is escorted as it arrives in Busan, South Korea on Sept. 23, 2022. North Korea warned Saturday, Oct. 8, the U.S. redeployment of an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula is causing a “considerably huge negative splash” in regional security, as it defended its recent missile tests as a “righteous reaction” to intimidating military drills between its rivals.(AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Sunday, the latest of its recent barrage of weapons tests, a day after the North warned that the redeployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula was inflaming regional tensions.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that they detected two missile launches Sunday between 1:48 a.m. and 1:58 a.m. from the North’s eastern coastal city of Munchon.

They said South Korea’s military has boosted its surveillance posture and maintains a readiness in close coordination with the United States.

Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino also confirmed the launches, saying the North’s testing activities are “absolutely unacceptable” as they threaten regional and international peace and security.

Ino said the weapons could be submarine-launched ballistic missiles. “We are continuing to analyze details of the missiles, including a possibility that they might have been launched from the sea,” Ino said.

North Korea’s pursuit of an ability to fire missiles from a submarine would constitute an alarming development for its rivals because it’s harder to detect such launches in advance. North Korea was believed to have last tested a missile launch from a submarine in May.

Ino said both missiles launched Sunday flew about 350 kilometers (217 miles) at a maximum attitude of 100 kilometers (60 miles) before they fell into the waters between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese exclusive economic zone.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida separately instructed officials to gather and analyze all information they could and expedite any updates about the tests to the public. His office said it also was seeking to ensure the safety of all aircraft and ships in waters around Japan while preparing for any contingencies.

The Japanese coast guard said it has warned ships around the country’s coasts to be vigilant and avoid the area.

The launch, the North’s seventh round of weapons tests in two weeks, came hours after the United States and South Korea wrapped up a new round of naval drills off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.

USS Ronald Reagan is escorted as it arrives in Busan, South Korea on Sept. 23, 2022. North Korea warned Saturday, Oct. 8, the U.S. redeployment of an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula is causing a “considerably huge negative splash” in regional security, as it defended its recent missile tests as a “righteous reaction” to intimidating military drills between its rivals (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

The drills involved the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group, which returned to the area after North Korea fired a powerful missile over Japan last week to protest the carrier group’s previous training with South Korea.

On Saturday, North Korea’s Defense Ministry warned that the Reagan’s redeployment was causing a “considerably huge negative splash” in regional security. The North’s Defense Ministry called its recent missile tests a “righteous reaction” to intimidating military drills between its rivals.

North Korea regards U.S.-South Korean military exercises as an invasion rehearsal and is especially sensitive if such drills involve U.S. strategic assets such as an aircraft carrier. North Korea has argued it was forced to pursue a nuclear weapons program to cope with U.S. nuclear threats. U.S. and South Korean officials have repeatedly said they have no intentions of attacking the North.

North Korea’s latest launches added to its record-breaking pace of weapons tests this year. The recent weapons tests included a nuclear-capable missile that flew over Japan for the first time in five years and demonstrated a range within striking distance of the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.

Earlier this year, North Korea tested other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that place the U.S. mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance.

North Korea’s testing spree indicates its leader, Kim Jong Un, has no intention of resuming diplomacy with the U.S. and wants to focus on expanding his weapons arsenal. But some experts say Kim would eventually aim to use his advanced nuclear program to wrest greater outside concessions, such as the recognition of North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, which Kim thinks is essential in getting crippling U.N. sanctions on his country lifted.

South Korean officials recently said North Korea was also prepared to test a new liquid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile and a submarine-launched ballistic missile while maintaining readiness to perform its first underground nuclear test since 2017.

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