October 5, 2023

People walk past a street monitor showing news of North Korea’s intercontinental missile test in Tokyo, Japan on July 4, 2017.

Toru Hanai | Reuters

WASHINGTON – North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of ​​Japan, the military of South Korea and Japan announced on Wednesday evening.

“We are strongly protesting this launch,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo, adding that initial assessments tracked the rockets falling outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

South Korea said its military had detected two short-range missiles that were fired around 7 a.m. local time, the country’s joint chief of staff’s office told NBC News. It added that South Korean and US intelligence agencies analyzed the matter and gathered detailed information.

A US Indo-Pacific Command spokesman said the US is monitoring the situation and is consulting with its allies and partners.

“This activity underscores the threat that North Korea’s illegal weapons program poses to its neighbors and the international community. The US commitment to defending the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironic,” said the spokesman, Navy Capt. Mike Kafka.

The White House and Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

At the weekend, North Korea conducted its first missile test since the Biden government took office. Senior officials said on a call with reporters Tuesday evening that Pyongyang had fired at least one missile. The officers, speaking on condition of anonymity, would not explain what type of weapon was fired, where the test was conducted, or how successful they were.

The series of tests comes when Pyongyang ignores invitations from Washington to discuss denuclearization and the US and South Korea resume major joint military exercises.

Last week, a senior North Korean official said Pyongyang would not respond to numerous invitations to resume nuclear talks until the United States abandons “hostile policies”.

“We have already stated our position that contact and dialogue between the DPRK and the US will not be possible if the US does not retract its hostile policy towards the DPRK,” said Choe Son Hui, first deputy foreign minister, according to a published statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Under Kim Jong Un, the secluded state carried out its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first ballistic ICBM and threatened to launch missiles into the waters near the US territory of Guam.

Since 2011, Kim has fired more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapon tests. This is more than what his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung fired over a 27 year period.