North Korea fired three ballistic missiles toward the sea east of the Korean Peninsula on Saturday, the South Korean military said.
The launches were the latest in an unprecedented number of missile tests conducted by North Korea this year, as Pyongyang presses on with weapons development amid speculation it could test a nuclear weapon for a seventh time.
The three, short-range ballistic missiles were fired starting around 8 am local time (2300 GMT) from North Hwanghae Province, just south of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Japan’s coast guard said North Korea fired what could be a ballistic missile and sent notice about a second possible missile. NHK reported that a second North Korean missile appeared to have landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
North Korea fired the missiles the day after South Korea’s defense ministry announced it had successfully conducted a test flight of a solid-propellant space launch vehicle.
On Monday, five North Korean drones crossed into South Korea, prompting the South’s military to scramble fighter jets and attack helicopters to try to shoot them down, in the first such intrusion since 2017.
Relations between North Korea and U.S. ally South Korea have grown even more tense since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s conservative government took over in May, promising a tougher stance toward the North.
Not counting Saturday’s launches, North Korea has fired around 70 ballistic missiles this year, Yonhap news agency said, including about eight intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
North Korean state media KCNA had yet to make any mention of the firing, but said on Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un had presided over a party meeting on Friday to decide policy and strategy for 2023.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Chris Reese, Grant McCool and Kim Coghill)