Seoul, South Korea:
North Korea launched at least one ballistic missile into waters off its eastern coast on Sunday, the South Korean military said after Seoul and Washington staged their first joint exercises with a US aircraft carrier in more than four years.
Pyongyang has doubled down on upgrading its weapons program this year, despite crippling economic sanctions.
“North Korea has fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the Baltic Sea,” Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said Sunday morning, referring to the Sea of Japan.
The Japanese Coast Guard said “possible ballistic missiles” had been launched from North Korea, citing the Defense Ministry.
The launch came after South Korea and the United States completed large-scale three-day exercises with the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
It was the Allies’ first joint military exercise since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office last month, and their first joint exercise with an aircraft carrier since November 2017.
Pyongyang has long protested the joint military exercises of Seoul and Washington, citing the exercises as rehearsals for the invasion.
“The exercise reaffirmed the determination of the two countries to respond sternly to all provocations from North Korea while demonstrating the US commitment to provide comprehensive deterrence,” the JCS said in a statement.
Last month, at a summit with Yoon, US President Joe Biden said Washington would deploy “strategic means” if necessary to deter North Korea as part of efforts to bolster its comprehensive deterrence.
Last month, Pyongyang fired three missiles, including possibly the largest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17.
That launch came just days after Biden left South Korea following his summit with Yoon.
US and South Korean officials have been warning for weeks that Pyongyang may conduct a seventh nuclear test.
Despite struggling with a recent Covid-19 outbreak, North Korea has resumed construction on a long-dormant nuclear reactor, new satellite images show.
South Korea’s presidential office last month said Pyongyang had tested a nuclear detonator device in preparation for the first nuclear test since 2017.
Long-range and nuclear tests have been paused since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with then-US President Donald Trump for a diplomatic attack, which collapsed in 2019.
But Pyongyang has given up on this self-imposed moratorium on long-range and nuclear tests and has this year conducted a series of weapons tests to break sanctions, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at full range.
Analysts have warned Kim could accelerate plans for nuclear tests to distract the people of North Korea from the disastrous coronavirus outbreak.
(This story was not edited by DailyExpertNews staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)