North Korea Fires 2 Ballistic Missiles

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On Thursday, North Korea conducted a missile test, launching two short-range ballistic missiles from the Sunan district of Pyongyang, its capital. This marked the first missile test by North Korea in two months. Coinciding with the test, the United States and South Korean militaries were engaged in a joint live-fire exercise near the inter-Korean border. The South Korean military is currently analyzing the test data to gather more information about the missiles.

According to Hirokazu Matsuno, a spokesperson for the Japanese government, at least two ballistic missiles landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Matsuno condemned the missile firing as an act that escalates provocations against the international community. He also stated that Japan did not take any action to intercept the missiles.

This latest test follows North Korea’s previous launch of a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile on April 13.

Hours before the launch, the South Korean and American militaries conducted a live-fire drill in Pochon, north of Seoul, the South Korean capital. The exercise, which involved artillery and warplanes among other things, was the latest in a series of similar drills the allies have conducted in recent weeks to beef up their readiness against North Korea.

After watching the joint exercise, President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea said, “We don’t need a fake peace dependent on the good will of the enemy, we need a real peace that we can accomplish when we build our own security with our own power.”

Mr. Yoon, a conservative, has been a vocal critic of his liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in’s policy of engaging North Korea with dialogue, using the words “fake peace” to describe the brief inter-Korean rapprochement under Mr. Moon.

In a statement issued before its missile test, the North Korean Ministry of National Defense condemned the recent U.S.-South Korean combined exercises as “provocative and irresponsible moves” that raised tension.

“Our response to this is inevitable,” the ministry said. “Our armed forces will fully counter any form of demonstrative moves and provocation of the enemies.”

North Korea has been rapidly expanding its missile and nuclear weapons program since the diplomacy between its leader, Kim Jong-un, and Donald J. Trump, then the American president, ended in 2019 without an agreement.

The April 13 test, which involved the North’s newest ICBM, the solid-fuel Hwasong-18, was considered an important technological milestone for North Korea because a solid-fuel ICBM is easier to hide and transport and takes less time to prepare for launch. That makes it harder to target in pre-emptive strikes than the Hwasong-14, -15 and -17 ICBM models, all of which use liquid propellants.

North Korea also launched a space vehicle at the end of May, which it said had been carrying its first military reconnaissance satellite built to monitor the South Korean and American militaries.

That launch briefly triggered evacuation alerts in South Korea. But the North later admitted that the launch was a failure, with the rocket tumbling into the sea west of the Korean Peninsula.

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