South Korea’s military said North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula on Saturday.
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The launches were the latest in an unprecedented number of missile tests conducted by North Korea this year as Pyongyang pushes for weapons development, amid speculation it could test a nuclear weapon for a seventh time.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said three short-range ballistic missiles were fired at around 8:00 a.m. local time (2300 GMT) from North Hwanghae province, south of the capital Pyongyang.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said all three flew at an altitude of about 100 km (62 mi) and covered a distance of about 350 km (217 mi). The South Korean military also said the missiles had a range of about 350 km.
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“North Korea’s ballistic missile launch is a serious provocation that undermines peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. And urged to stop it immediately.
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launches did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or the region or Washington’s allies, but they did highlight the destabilizing effect of North Korea’s weapons programme.
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The launch came a day after South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that it had successfully conducted a test flight of the solid propellant Space Launch Vehicle.
On Monday, five North Korean drones entered South Korea, prompting the South’s military to scavenge fighter jets and attack helicopters to try, the first such incursion since 2017.
Relations between North Korea and US ally South Korea have become more strained since the conservative government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol came to power in May, promising a tougher stance toward the North.
Excluding Saturday’s launches, North Korea has fired about 70 ballistic missiles this year, including about eight intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Yonhap news agency said.
North Korean state media KCNA had not yet mentioned the launch, but said on Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un had chaired a party meeting on Friday to decide policy and strategy for 2023.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Atsuko Aoyama; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh and Kantaro Komiya; Editing by Chris Reese, Grant McCool and Kim Coghill)