North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, according to the South Korean military, after protesting joint military drills by the United States and South Korea, Al Jazeera reports.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC) said the missiles were fired from North Korea’s Hwanghae province shortly before 8am local time on Monday (23:00 GMT Sunday).
The JSC condemned the launches as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and said it would continue military drills as planned.
“We will keep a close eye on North Korea’s various activities and maintain firm readiness posture based on the capability to overwhelmingly respond to any provocations,” the JCS said in a statement.
The Japanese government said the projectiles are believed to have fallen outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
It also lodged a “strong protest” with North Korea, saying the neighbouring country’s missile launches threaten the safety and peace of Japan, the region and the international community.
The launches were North Korea’s seventh missile event this month and underscore heightening military tensions in the region as the pace of both Pyongyang’s weapons tests and the US-South Korea joint military exercises has accelerated in recent months in a cycle of tit-for-tat responses.
The allies completed their most extensive springtime exercises in years last week, but North Korea is expected to further step up its testing activity as the US moves an aircraft carrier group to the peninsula this week for another round of joint drills.
The South Korean defence ministry said the US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and ships from its accompanying strike group would stage joint maritime exercises with its forces on Monday off the Korean peninsula’s south coast. The carrier will then dock at a South Korean naval base in the southeastern port city of Busan on Tuesday.
The ship’s planned visit, which marks the first since the USS Ronald Reagan visited in September, was arranged as part of efforts to have more US “strategic assets” in the area to deter North Korea, the ministry said.