North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea in the direction of Japan on Thursday, as a U.S. aircraft carrier and allied warships carried out a military exercise simulating the shooting down of a North Korean missile. North.
North Korea has launched some 40 missiles this year, including its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and appears poised to carry out its first nuclear test since 2017, officials in Seoul and Washington have warned.
Thursday’s launches followed the return of the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to waters off the Korean peninsula and following a UN Security Council meeting held in response to the North’s recent tests.
The missile launch was the sixth in 12 days and the first since North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile (IRBM) over Japan on Tuesday, to which South Korea and the United States responded with some exercises in which a projectile crashed and burned.
The launch was reported by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Japanese government.
“This is the sixth time in a short period, just counting the ones at the end of September,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. “This cannot be tolerated at all.”
The launch came an hour after North Korea condemned the United States for speaking to the United Nations Security Council about Pyongyang’s “fair countermeasures” in the face of joint South Korean-US drills. thereby suggesting that their missile tests are a reaction to Allied military moves.
In a statement, the secretive nation’s Foreign Ministry also condemned Washington for repositioning the US aircraft carrier off the Korean peninsula, saying it poses a serious threat to the stability of the situation.
The aircraft carrier and its accompanying warship strike group were abruptly relocated in response to North Korea’s launch of an IRBM on Japan.
The carrier strike group joined destroyers from South Korea and Japan in maritime missile defense training, the South Korean military said Thursday.
“This training focuses on mastery of detection, tracking and interception procedures through shared target information under a scenario with (North Korea) carrying out ballistic missile provocations,” it said in a statement.
A US State Department spokesman condemned Thursday’s launch as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a threat to the region’s neighbors and the international community.
The spokesman, however, added that Washington is committed to a diplomatic approach and called on the North to commit to dialogue.
On Wednesday, the United States accused China and Russia of supporting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by blocking attempts to tighten UN Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The United States and its allies have stepped up the deployment of military force in the region, but there appears to be little prospect of the UN Security Council, which has already passed resolutions banning the North’s nuclear and missile development, imposing new international sanctions.
China’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Geng Shuang said the Security Council should play a constructive role, “instead of relying solely on strong rhetoric or pressure.”
In May, China and Russia vetoed a US-led initiative to impose further UN sanctions on North Korea over its new ballistic missile launches, publicly dividing the Security Council for the first time since it began punishing Pyongyang with sanctions. in 2006.