- Missiles fired after US nuclear sub arrives in South Korea.
- Both missiles appeared to have fallen near Japan’s territory.
- South Korea condemns missile launch, calls for halt to such acts.
Just hours after capturing a US soldier from its side of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), North Korea launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) early Wednesday, fuelling tensions in the region as nuclear submarine is currently docked at a South Korean port.
The submarine arrived after four decades and aimed to protect South Korea and US’ neighbouring allies from North Korea growing military preparedness and weapons development.
The Japanese Defence Ministry said that both the missiles appeared to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) called on the North to cease such launches.
“We strongly condemn North Korea’s successive ballistic missile launches as grave provocative acts that undermine the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community, and are a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” the JCS said in a statement.
The US military said it was aware of the missile launches and was consulting closely with its allies and partners.
“The launches do not appear to pose an immediate threat to the US or its allies, but the events highlight the destabilising impact of North Korea’s illicit weapons programme,” the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement.
“The first missile reached an altitude of 50 km (31 miles) and covered a range of 550 km, while the second one rose as high as 50 km and flew 600 km,” Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters.
Japan lodged a protest against the missile launches through diplomatic channels, he said.
The firing comes nearly a week after North Korea tested its latest Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, a launch Pyongyang said was a warning to the US and adversaries.
On Tuesday, a US soldier Private 2nd Class Travis King, who was being escorted back to the US for disciplinary reasons entered North Korea, sparking a fresh crisis between Washington and Pyongyang.
“North Korea’s latest firing of ballistic missiles is probably unrelated to an American soldier crossing the inter-Korean border, but such an incident doesn’t help matters either,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“North Korea undoubtedly opposes a new US-South Korea nuclear war planning group that met for the first time on Tuesday, as well as the visit of the US nuclear ballistic missile submarine,” he said.