Seoul said North Korea fired at least one intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Thursday, a few hours before South Korean President Yoon Sok Yul’s visit to Tokyo.
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“Our military has detected a long-range ballistic missile launched from Pyongyang’s Sunan area,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP, adding that it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Japan’s Defense Ministry also confirmed the missile launch, tweeting that the missile was estimated to be “located outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, about 550 kilometers east of the Korean Peninsula.”
The Japanese Coast Guard has asked ships navigating in the area to be on the lookout for any debris floating in the sea.
It is Pyongyang’s third show of force since Sunday, when South Korea and the United States held their largest joint military exercises in five years this week.
President Yun and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are scheduled to meet in Tokyo on Thursday for talks covering Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.
The summit is the first in 12 years between the two neighboring powers, which are seeking to repair relations long damaged by atrocities committed by Japan during 35 years of colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945).
“Korea and Japan increasingly need to cooperate in this time of multiple crises, with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats escalating,” South Korean President Yoon Sok-yol said Wednesday in an interview with several media outlets, including AFP.
We cannot waste time by ignoring the tense relations between Korea and Japan. I believe we must end the vicious cycle of mutual hostility and work together to defend the common interests of our two countries.”
The two countries are increasing their defense spending and regularly conduct joint military exercises.
North Korea on Tuesday launched two short-range ballistic missiles and two strategic missiles from a submarine on Sunday, hours before the start of the US-South Korean exercises.
The exercises, dubbed “Shield of Freedom,” began on Monday and will last for ten days.
The South Korean military further revealed in early March that special forces from Washington and Seoul are also conducting “Teak Knife” military exercises, which involve simulating precision strikes on key facilities in North Korea.
The allies said the Freedom Shield exercise focused on the “changing security environment” due to North Korea’s heightened aggression.
North Korea views these exercises as rehearsals for an invasion and regularly promises “crushing” action in response.