N. Korea launches multiple ballistic missiles: Seoul

People watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on May 25, 2022, after North Korea fired three ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan according to South Korea's military. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP)

North Korea launched multiple ballistic missiles into waters off its east coast Sunday, South Korea’s military said, a day after Seoul and Washington completed their first joint drills involving a US aircraft carrier in more than four years.

Pyongyang has doubled down on upgrading its weapons programme this year, despite facing crippling economic sanctions.

“Our military detected eight short-range ballistic missiles fired from the
Sunan area in Pyongyang, North Korea into the East Sea,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the Sea of Japan.

The launches took place over about 30 minutes on Sunday morning, it added.

“While our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance in
preparation for additional launches, South Korea and the United States are closely cooperating and maintaining a full readiness posture.”

The launches took place at multiple locations, Tokyo said, adding that
Pyongyang had tested missiles at “unprecedently high frequency” this year.

“We can say the very large number of launches from at least three locations
in a short period of time like this time is unusual,” Japanese Defence
Minister Nobuo Kishi said, confirming the North fired at least six missiles.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.

The launches came barely a day after South Korea and the United States
wrapped up large-scale, three-day exercises involving the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

They were the allies’ first joint military drills since South Korea’s hawkish
new President Yoon Suk-yeol took office last month, and the first involving an aircraft carrier since November 2017.

Pyongyang has long protested against the joint exercises, calling them
rehearsals for invasion.

“The exercise consolidated the two countries’ determination to sternly
respond to any North Korean provocations while demonstrating the US
commitment to provide extended deterrence,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said
Sunday’s launch was likely a response to the US-South Korea manoeuvres.

“It seems that they fired eight missiles because the scale of the joint
drills has expanded in their view,” he told AFP.