Banned launches come as Kim Yo Jong warns against any increased presence of the US on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has fired a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast, according to South Korea’s military, two days after Pyongyang resumed banned testing activities with an intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
South Korea detected the two launches from a western coastal town, just north of the North Korean capital, on Monday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
North Korea’s state media said two projectiles were fired from a multiple rocket launcher, aiming at targets 395km (245 miles) and 337km (209 miles) away, respectively.
“The 600mm multiple rocket launcher mobilized in the firing … is a means of tactical nuclear weapon,” capable of “paralyzing” an enemy airfield, state news agency KCNA said.
Japan also detected the launches, saying two ballistic missiles were fired at about 7am local time on Monday (22:00 GMT Sunday). The missiles reached an altitude of approximately 100km (62 miles) and 50km (31 miles) and traveled between 350km (217 miles) and 400km (249 miles) before falling outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
There were no reports of damage to aircraft or vessels.
In a statement, the ministry said it would continue to gather and analyze information in close cooperation with the United States.
“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community,” the ministry said. “Japan lodged a strong protest and forcefully condemned North Korea.”
‘Our firing range’
Pyongyang’s second launch in 48 hours came as Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister issued a warning early on Monday against any increased US presence on the Korean peninsula.
“We are carefully examining the influence it would exert on the security of our state,” she said in a statement. “The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the US forces’ action character.”
On Friday, North Korea fired its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile off its east coast.
North Korea’s state media said on Sunday the ICBM test was meant to further bolster its “fatal” nuclear attack capacity and verify the weapon’s reliability, as well as the combat readiness of the country’s nuclear force.
South Korea and the US say their military drills are defensive in nature, but Pyongyang portrays them as a rehearsal for invasion.
On Sunday, the US flew long-range supersonic bombers in separate exercises with South Korean and Japanese warplanes in a show of force against North Korea.
The US and South Korea are also set to hold simulated nuclear drills, known as the Deterrence Strategy Committee Tabletop Exercise, at the Pentagon on Wednesday, while a range of expanded field exercises, including live fire drills, are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks and months.
Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said Monday’s missile launch and statement echoed the North Korean foreign ministry’s recent threat to take “unprecedentedly persistent, strong” responses to the allies’ joint military drills.
“North Korea seems to be trying to stoke tension in the region and reinforce its nuclear capability by raising the issue over the drills, and the statement by Kim Yo Jong signals there would be additional provocations,” Park said.
Some 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a full peace treaty.