Another ballistic missile launch by North Korea has been condemned as “serious provocation that harms peace”.
The South Korean military said a pair of short-range ballistic missiles were detected overnight on Saturday, flying towards its eastern waters – the latest in the country’s barrage of weapons tests in recent days.
The launch, the North’s sixth round of weapons tests in two weeks, came hours after the United States and South Korea finished a new round of naval drills off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. The drills involved nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
North Korea’s military defended its recent missile tests as a “righteous reaction” to what it labelled intimidating military drills. It said the US redeployment of the aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula was causing a “considerably huge negative splash” in regional security.
The Reagan and its battle group returned to the area after North Korea fired a powerful missile over Japan earlier this week to protest the carrier group’s previous training with South Korea.
North Korea regards US-South Korean military exercises as an invasion rehearsal and is especially sensitive if such drills involve US strategic assets like an aircraft carrier.
The country has argued it was forced to pursue a nuclear weapons programme to cope with US nuclear threats, though US and South Korean officials have repeatedly said they have no intentions of attacking the North.
In the past two weeks, North Korea has fired 10 ballistic missiles into the sea in five launch events.
The recent weapons tests include a nuclear-capable missile that flew over Japan for the first time in five years and demonstrated a range to strike the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.
Earlier this year, North Korea tested other nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that place the US mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan within striking distance.
North Korea’s testing spree indicates its leader, Kim Jong Un, has no intention of resuming diplomacy with the US and wants to focus on expanding his weapons arsenal.