Home English News North Korea fires four ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan

North Korea fires four ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan

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Japanese and South Korean officials condemned Monday’s launch of four ballistic missiles by North Korea, after the missiles fell into the sea 300 to 350 kilometres off the coast of Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Toyko had lodged a “stern protest” with Pyongyang and that the missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, were “a grave threat to our country’s national security,” according to a government spokesman.

South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn called a meeting of the National Security Council.

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“North Korea’s missile launch is a blatant and clear violation of the UN Security Council resolution,” said Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon Hee, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Japanese and South Korean defence officials said the missiles were launched in the west of North Korea and travelled 1,000 kilometres before falling into the Sea of Japan off the Oga Peninsula on Japan’s main island.

In remarks to a budget committee in the upper house of parliament, Abe called the launch a “clear violation” of UN resolutions and said the “totally unacceptable” action showed “a new phase of threat” from North Korea.

Abe added that Japan “strongly urges North Korea to exercise self-restraint” and that Japan “is closely coordinating with countries concerned such as the United States and South Korea.”

Yonhap, which first reported the launch, said an “unidentified projectile” had been fired from an area near the Dongchang Ri missile site at 7:36 am (2306 GMT).

Pyongyang has ramped up its nuclear programme under its relatively new leader Kim Jong Un, carrying out two nuclear tests and launching some 20 ballistic missiles last year alone.

In his New Year’s address, Kim had said the reclusive state was almost ready to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

And in February Pyongyang it had successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile – not an ICBM – capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It was the first such test and provocation since US President Donald Trump took office.

Monday’s launch was an apparent protest against ongoing military drills between South Korea and the United States, Yonhap said.

The US-South Korea “Foal Eagle” military manoeuvres began on Wednesday. North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of using the exercises to prepare an attack on it, a charge that both deny.

Last month, US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned North Korea any nuclear attack on the United States or its allies would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response.

-dpa