People watch a TV broadcasting a file picture for a news report on North Korea firing of ballistic missiles in Seoul. Reuters
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into waters off its eastern coast on Wednesday afternoon, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions just days after testing a cruise missile with possible nuclear capabilities.
Two days after claiming to have tested a newly developed missile in a resumption of its weapons displays after a six-month lull, Pyongyang has been steadily developing its weapons programme amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief.
South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analysing more details about the North Korean launches, the joint chiefs' statement said, adding that South Korea has boosted its anti-North Korea surveillance posture.
Japan’s coast guard says they landed outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during a meeting. File photo
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the missiles landed outside of the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone in the waters between northwestern Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
"The firings threaten the peace and safety of Japan and the region and are absolutely outrageous,” Suga said. "The government of Japan is determined to further step up our vigilance and surveillance to be prepared for any contingencies,” he said.
Both Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in would convene sessions of their national security councils to discuss the launches, according to their offices.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a conference. File photo
Moon office said he was immediately briefed about the ballistic missile tests, North Korea's first since March this year and a further breach of UN sanctions.
The latest launch came as foreign ministers of South Korea and China were holding talks in Seoul amid concerns over North Korea's recent cruise missile test and the stalled denuclearisation negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.
North Korea had said Monday it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korea’s state media described the missile as a "strategic weapon of great significance,” implying they were developed with the intent to arm them with nuclear warheads. According to North Korean accounts, the missile flew about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), a distance putting all of Japan and US military installations there within reach.
Many experts say the weekend tests suggested North Korea is pushing to bolster its weapons arsenal amid a deadlock in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.
The string of weapons drills come as a prolonged hiatus in disarmament talks with the United States drags on, and despite recent overtures from Washington offering help to contain the pandemic.
A US special envoy to North Korea said on Friday that Washington was ready to hold constructive talks with Pyongyang to follow through on a denuclearisation agreement reached by the two countries
South Korea’s Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Saturday fended off calls to step up pressure on North Korea after it test-fired missiles last month. Jeong told an annual security conference in Singapore
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