North Korea launches another missile into sea as it ramps up testing

North Korea has fired a short-range ballistic missile into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula, the latest of several in the past week, according to its neighbours.

The action was condemned as a provocation by the chief nuclear envoys to the US, Japan and South Korea.

The range of the missile – it travelled a distance of around 500 miles – suggests South Korea could be a target of the weapon.

Japan’s defence ministry said it also flew around 30 miles high.

On Thursday, the North launched an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, later confirming that the weapon used was a Hwasong-17.

Known as the country’s ‘monster missile’, it is the world’s largest road-mobile, liquid-fuelled ICBM.

It was tested just hours before the South Korean president Yook Suk-yeol was due to fly to Tokyo for discussions with Fumio Kishida, the prime minister of Japan.

Both united at the summit partly aimed at rebuilding security ties between the US allies in the face of North Korean nuclear threats.

State media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying Thursday’s launch was meant to ‘strike fear into the enemies’.

The ramping-up of testing activities comes as the US and South Korea carry out the biggest military drills of their kind in years.

In response to the latest launch, the South said the drills would continue as it maintains a readiness to ‘overwhelmingly’ respond to any provocation by North Korea.

The Biden administration wants better South Korea-Japan ties, which declined over historical issues in recent years, as it pushes to strengthen its alliance network in Asia to counter the North Korean nuclear threat and China’s rising influence.

On Sunday, the US flew at least one long-range B-1B bomber for joint aerial training with warplanes from South Korea.

The use of the aircraft, which is capable of carrying a huge conventional weapons payload, has previously also been met with responsive missile test-launches from the North.

Toshiro Ino, the Japanese deputy defence minister, said there was no reports of damage from Sunday’s test launch as it landed outside the country’s exclusive economic zone.

However, he said the activity represented a ‘threat’ to the security of Japan, the region, and the international community and it ‘absolutely cannot be tolerated’.

The missile likely showed an irregular trajectory, he said, which could be a reference to North Korea’s highly manoeuvrable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch does not pose an immediate threat to American territory or its allies, but highlighted ‘the destabilising impact of [North Korea’s] unlawful’ weapons programmes.

It added that the US security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains ‘ironclad’.

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