North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward waters off its east coast on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The missile was fired at 3:31 p.m. local time from the Sukchon area of South Pyongan province, according to the JCS. It added that the South Korean military has strengthened its surveillance and is closely cooperating with the United States.
Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile flew about 250 kilometers (about 155 miles) “at a very low altitude of about 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) or less,” and landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.
He added that authorities are still examining further details like the missile’s orbit, and condemned the launch as threatening “the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community.”
This marks the 32nd day this year that North Korea has carried out a missile test, according to a CNN count. The tally includes both ballistic and cruise missiles.
By contrast, it conducted only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021.
Wednesday’s launch comes during midterm elections in the United States, with votes still being counted as Democrats and Republicans vie for control over Congress.
Also on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said a missile fired last week was a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile – not a short-range ballistic missile, as it had claimed at the time.
On November 2, South Korea said Pyongyang had fired as many as 23 missiles to the east and west of the Korean Peninsula, including the now-identified SA-5, which landed close to South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the division of Korea.
JCS said the missile landed in international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of South Korea’s Ulleung island, about 26 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line – the de facto inter-Korean maritime border, which North Korea does not recognize.
Debris from the missile was salvaged from the sea, and displayed to the press at the Defense Ministry in Seoul on Wednesday.
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula have steadily risen this year, with South Korea and the US responding to Pyongyang’s missile tests by stepping up joint drills and military exercises, as well as their own missile tests.
South Korea is also currently carrying out its own standalone drills in an annual exercise that emphasizes defense operations, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The drills are expected to continue through Thursday.
On Monday, North Korean state media released images purporting to show last week’s missile launches with a warning that what it called the “reckless military hysteria” of the US and its allies was moving the peninsula towards “unstable confrontation.”
Pyongyang’s missiles and air force drills prove its “will to counter the combined air drill of the enemy,” said the report.
The US and international observers have been warning for months that North Korea appears to be preparing for an underground nuclear test, with satellite imagery showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the hermit nation’s first in nearly five years.