By Soo-hyang Choi
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast, South Korea’s military said on Monday, as the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un warned the isolated and nuclear-armed state could turn the Pacific into a “firing range”. .
The launches come just two days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea off Japan’s west coast, prompting joint air exercises by the United States and South Korea on Sunday.
North Korea’s state media confirmed it fired two projectiles from a multiple rocket launcher, aiming at targets 395 km (245 miles) and 337 km (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’s Defense Ministry said the two ballistic missiles, fired around 2200 GMT, reached a maximum altitude of about 100 km and 50 km, traveling a distance of about 350-400 km before falling outside Japan’s EEZ.
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.”
North Korean leader Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned against increasing the presence of US strategic assets on the Korean peninsula after the United States held joint air exercises with South Korea and separately with Japan on Sunday.
“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.”
She also refuted experts’ assessment of its missile capabilities after some pointed out that it took over nine hours for the “sudden” missile launch to take place following an order from leader Kim, and said South Korea didn’t even fly reconnaissance planes at the time of its launch.
“We have possessed satisfactory technology and capability and, now we will focus on increasing the quantity of their force,” she said.
Monday’s missile launch is the North’s third major weapons test this year after Pyongyang threatened an “unprecedentedly persistent, strong” response as South Korea and the United States geared up for their annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the growing nuclear and missile threat. that the North poses.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul, Chang-ran Kim in Tokyo; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Diane Craft and Lincoln Feast.)