North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) into the waters off its east coast on Sunday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a move that Japan has called “unprecedented.”
The missiles were launched from multiple sites in North Korea into waters east of the Korean peninsula between 9:08 a.m. and 9:43 a.m. local time in Seoul on Sunday, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The missiles mark the 17th launch by North Korea this year. The last, on May 25, came just as US President Joe Biden had concluded his trip to Asia and was returning back to the United States.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the eight missiles traveled distances of between 110 to 670 kilometers (68 to 416 miles) at altitudes of 25 to 90 kilometers (15 to 55 miles) and speeds from Mach 3 to Mach 6.
They were launched from four sites in North Korea: The Sunan area in the capital Pyongyang, Kaechon in South Pyongan province, Tongchang-ri in North Pyongan province and Hamhung in South Hamgyong province.
“North Korea’s continued launch of ballistic missiles is a serious provocation that harms peace and stability of not only the Korean peninsula but also the international community,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, condemning and urging the North to “immediately stop” such actions.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “strongly protested” North Korea’s multiple missile launches, telling reporters that they are a clear violation of UN resolutions.
Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called the launch “unprecedented” and confirmed at least six, but possibly more missiles, fired by North Korea are estimated to have fallen outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“The extremely large number of launches from at least three locations in a short period of time is unprecedented,” he said, adding missile launches that threaten international peace and security cannot be tolerated.
According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, six of the missiles reached a maximum altitude of between 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles), and traveled a distance of about 300 to 400 kilometers (186 to 249 miles).
Japan has formally protested North Korea’s latest actions via diplomatic channels with Beijing, Kishi said.
In response to Sunday’s launch, South Korea’s national security chief Kim Sung-han held meeting of the National Security Council’s standing committee and called the North’s repeated ballistic missile launches “a challenge to the security posture” of the new government, the presidential office said.
Sunday’s launch is North Korea’s third missile test since new South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol took office on May 10.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Won In-choul and top commander of the ROK-US Combined Forces Command Paul LaCamera also held a virtual meeting and reaffirmed their combined defense capability to immediately detect and intercept North Korean missiles.
The launch comes a day after the navies of South Korea and the United States concluded a three-day combined exercise in the waters off Japan’s Okinawa, South Korea’s military confirmed to CNN.
In a press release, the US Navy said it had deployed its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan along with the Carrier Strike Group 5.
Also involved in the exercise was the South Korean Navy’s ROKS Sejong The Great and amphibious assault ship Marado, the US Navy said.