North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan Thursday, South Korea’s military said, just days ahead of President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to Seoul.
This show of force marks the latest of a series of weapons demonstrations this year that came hours after Pyongyang confirmed its first case of COVID-19.
Last Saturday, North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile from a submarine off the port city of Sinpo.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement the trio of missiles fired from the North’s capital region just before 6:30 pm local time flew toward the waters off the country’s eastern coast.
It said South Korea’s military has stepped up its readiness and surveillance while maintaining close coordination with the United States.
Japan also detected and confirmed the North Korean launches.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed officials to do their utmost to analyze the launch, ensure safety of aircraft and vessels in the area and take precautions for any possible emergencies, according to his office.
Earlier Thursday, North Korean state media confirmed the country’s first COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic as Kim ordered nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus.
In recent months, North Korea has test-launched a spate of missiles, including nuclear-capable warheads that could potentially reach South Korea, Japan or the mainland US, in what experts call an attempt to upgrade its weapons and pressure Washington and its allies into accepting it as a nuclear state.
Thursday’s launches were the North’s first weapons fired since the inauguration of new conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol Tuesday.
The North Korean nuclear threat will likely top the agenda when Yoon meets Biden in Seoul May 20.
Last Saturday, South Korea detected a North Korea ballistic missile launch, likely from a submarine, in its first underwater-launched weapons test since last October.
There are also signs that the North is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in nearly 5 years at a remote testing ground in its northeast.
With Post wires