North Korea conducted two short-range ballistic missile tests on Tuesday, one day after the U.S. and South Korea started military exercises that Pyongyang considers a practice for an invasion.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea claimed in a statement that the missiles were fired from the coastal town of Jangyon in the country’s southwest and crossed over to North Korea before splashing down in the water off its eastern coast.
It claimed that each missile had flown 620 kilometers (385 miles).
According to reported flight distances, the missiles appear to be aimed at South Korea, home to around 28,000 American troops.
The military of South Korea referred to the launches as “a grave provocation” that jeopardizes regional peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The American Indo-Pacific Command declared that its partners were not immediately in danger from the launches on Tuesday.
It also stated that the United States security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “ironclad” and that the North’s recent tests demonstrate the “destabilizing consequences” of its illegal weapons programs.
According to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, there were no early reports of damage in Japanese waters, but officials were still gathering information on the North Korean launches.
Pyongyang may intensify its weapons testing in the upcoming days in retaliation for the allied military exercises scheduled to last through March 23.
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, gave orders last week for his soldiers to be prepared to fend off what he called “frantic war preparations.”
After North Korea test-fired more than 70 missiles in 2022, many nuclear-capable weapons, and publicly threatened to use them in future confrontations with the United States and South Korea, concerns about its nuclear program have risen considerably.
North Korea appears to be taking advantage of the long-stalled talks with Washington and the growing U.S.-South Korean drills to maximize its leverage in future negotiations with the United States.
The U.S. is working to strengthen its ties with South Korea and Japan in response to North Korean threats and China’s growing assertiveness.
But, other observers believe that a more consolidated Washington-Seoul-Tokyo partnership may encourage Pyongyang, Beijing, and Moscow to improve their trilateral relations.
Russia and China have frequently thwarted attempts by the United States and its allies to impose more stringent sanctions on North Korea because they are involved in conflicts with the United States.
The North conducted its second weapons test this week with Tuesday’s missiles. North Korea announced on Monday that it had tested two cruise missiles from a submarine the day before.
Although foreign experts disagree on whether Pyongyang has operational nuclear-armed missiles, it was claimed that cruise missiles were being manufactured to carry nuclear warheads.
Although more challenging to detect, submarine-launched missile systems would allow the North to mount a second attack in retaliation.
Yet according to analysts, the tightly sanctioned country would need years, a lot of money, and significant technological advancements to construct a fleet of submarines that could operate strikes reliably and stealthily.
North Korea has improved its submarine launch capabilities since its initial test in 2016. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan added that the country analyzed Sunday’s launches to gauge the North’s capabilities.
Sullivan added, “But of course, we’re not going to let any actions North Korea takes dissuade us or prevent us from taking the steps that we feel are essential to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula.
The joint exercises between the United States and South Korea that began on Monday involve field drills and computer simulations of North Korean aggression and other security scenarios.
According to South Korean defense officials, the field exercises would revert to the size of the most excellent springtime exercises for the allies that were last staged in 2018.
The number of joint exercises between the two nations has increased as North Korea’s nuclear threats have increased.
Regardless of whether “North Korea attempts to disrupt them with provocations like missile launches,” Jeon Ha Gyu, a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson, said on Tuesday, U.S.-South Korea drills would go on as usual. Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, said on Monday that the United States has made it clear that it has no hostile intentions toward North Korea and that the ongoing training exercises between the allies are “purely defensive in character.”