North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on March 27 as part of announcing its displeasure over the U.S.–South Korea joint military drills in the peninsula.
“North Korea has launched a suspected ballistic missile,” the Prime Minister’s Office of Japan posted on Twitter, with a list of the prime minister’s instructions. “1. Dedicate maximum effort to gather & analyze information, & provide the public speedy & adequate information. 2. Ensure the safety of aircraft, vessels, & other assets. 3. Take all possible measures for precaution, incl. readiness for contingencies.”
The two missiles were fired toward the northeast from near the west coast of North Korea at 7 a.m., said Japan’s Ministry of Defense. It is presumed that the missiles “fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. In addition, it is possible that the ballistic missile flew on an irregular trajectory, and the analysis is still ongoing,” according to the statement.
The first missile was launched at about 7:47 a.m. and flew about 370 kilometers (230 miles) at a maximum altitude of about 50 kilometers (31 miles), with the second missile following 10 minutes later. No damage was reported.
This was the seventh missile test in a series of launches by the North Korean regime as nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its battle group began exercises with South Korean warships on March 27.
The test missile launch comes a week after the United States and South Korean troops began their Ssangyong exercise in the Korean peninsula. The naval drill will include over 30 ships and 70 aircraft from both nations, along with nearly 50 amphibious assault vessels, Stars and Stripes reported.
“We will keep a close eye on North Korea’s various activities and maintain firm readiness posture based on the capability to overwhelmingly respond to any provocations,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, adding that it would continue military drills with the United States as planned.
The South Korean government has condemned the provocation as violating United Nations Security Council resolutions.
A guided missile cruiser and two destroyers accompanied the USS Nimitz for the air defense exercises. The drills are taking place near Jeju island, and the strike group is expected to arrive at the South Korean mainland port of Busan on March 28.
Considering North Korea’s “escalating nuclear and missile threats,” the exercises are seeking to enhance joint operational capabilities between the two nations, while demonstrating American commitment to defend South Korea, including with usage of nuclear options, said Jang Do Young, a South Korean navy spokesperson, according to The Associated Press.
“The United States has deployable strategic assets at the ready on every day,” said Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Carrier Strike Group Eleven. “We can continue to deploy those assets and we will.”
The United States and South Korea recently concluded their biggest springtime exercises in years, which included live-fire field exercises as well as simulations. However, the allies continued the drills in the face of North Korea’s stance in the region.
Pyongyang launched missiles when the USS Ronald Reagan and its battle group visited the region for joint exercises in September. So far this year, the communist regime has launched over 20 ballistic and cruise missiles on 11 occasions in an attempt to threaten the world powers to remove crippling sanctions and accept its nuclear status.
In 2022, North Korea launched a record 70 missiles as part of weapons testing.
While the allies have claimed defense purposes for the drills, the regime has condemned them as invasion rehearsals.
Reuters contributed to this report.