Early on Wednesday, North Korea attempted to make a statement of defiance by launching two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea as the US prepared to send a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades.
Between 3:30 and 3:46 a.m., the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea stated that Two short-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea were launched from a location close to the capital, Pyongyang, and traveled roughly 550 kilometers (341 miles) before touching down in waters east of the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese military’s assessment, which indicated the missiles landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone and that there were no early reports of damage from ships or planes in the impacted areas, was consistent with those flight parameters.
The USS Kentucky made its first visit to South Korea since the 1980s on Tuesday afternoon.
The flight path of the North Korean missiles closely matched the distance between Pyongyang and the South Korean port city of Busan. Yasukazu Hamada, the defense minister of Japan, informed journalists that the North Korean missiles flew on a low trajectory, reaching a maximum altitude of roughly 50 kilometers (31 miles), and may have performed an “irregular maneuver” while in flight.
A North Korean weapon based on the Russian Iskander missile, which flies at low altitudes and is built to be agile in flight to boost its chances of avoiding missile defenses, has been described in similar terms by Japan in the past.
The North’s blasts on Wednesday were its first ballistic activity since flight-testing a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile on July 12 that showed potential range to penetrate the U.S. mainland deeply. The totalitarian leader of that nation, Kim Jong Un, oversaw the launch and promised to further strengthen his nation’s nuclear fighting capabilities in response to growing U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which he blamed for deteriorating the security situation on the Korean Peninsula.
In recent months, tensions in the area have escalated as a result of an uptick in both the frequency of North Korean weapon tests and joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
The launches occurred while the United Nations Command, which is commanded by the United States, worked to secure the release of a fugitive American soldier.