NORTH Korea has fired two short-range ballistic missiles towards the east coast, in its fourth test launch this week.
The launches come after the navies of South Korea, the United States and Japan staged trilateral anti-submarine exercises on Friday for the first time in five years.
It also follows US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea this week.
Japan’s coast guard also reported at least two suspected ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang.
Japan’s national television NHK, citing a government source, said that a second missile had landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“The missile launch highlights the destabilising impact of the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs,” the US combatant command said in a statement. “The US commitments to the defence of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad.”
North Korea fired missiles before and after Harris’ visit to South Korea, extending a record pace in weapons testing this year as it increases the threat of a credible nuclear power that can strike the United States and its allies.
Yesterday’s launches are the fourth testing event in the past week after it fired one ballistic missile on Sunday and two ballistic missiles on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings, before and after Harris visited South Korea.
Pyongyang also conducted the first intercontinental ballistic missile test for the first time since 2017.
Analysts see the increased pace of testing as an effort to build operational weapons, as well as to take advantage of a world distracted by the Ukraine conflict and other crises to normalise its tests.
“Despite North Korea’s internal weaknesses and international isolation, it is rapidly modernising weapons and taking advantage of a world divided by US-China rivalry and Russia’s annexation of more Ukrainian territory,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
The Kim regime is also playing hardball with the Yoon administration while South Korean politics are hobbled by infighting.
Nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea have long been banned by the Security Council.
The military did not give details of the travel range, height and speed of the missiles.
The isolated country has completed preparations for a nuclear test, a window which could open between China’s party congress in October and the US mid-term elections in November, South Korean lawmakers said on Wednesday.
This year, North Korea performed missile tests more than 20 times, a record number, as it refuses to resume long-stalled nuclear talks with the US.
The North also has been pushing to advance its ability to fire missiles from submarines.
South Korean officials said recently that they had detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test-fire a missile from a submarine.