U.S. and South Korean officials confirmed that North Korea launched three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast in a new test.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were launched from the Hwangju region in the western part of North Korea and flew between 500 and 600 kilometers.
The U.S. says that the first two are believed to be short-range Scud tactical missiles while the third was an intermediate-range Rodong missile. JCS spokesman Jeon Ha Gyu said that the missiles had the range to reach all of South Korea.
The ballistic missiles’ flight went from 500km to 600km, which is a distance far enough to strike all of South Korea including Busan,” South Korea’s military said in a statement.
North Korea regularly tests short-range missiles, but this missile test comes just six days after South Korea announced it will deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD missile defense system in the southern town of Seongju. The THAAD missile defense system, when active, is capable of defending two thirds of all of South Korea from a missile attack from North Korea.
Jeon said South Korea “strongly condemns” the missile test saying that it is an “armed protest” against the THAAD missile defense system.
Jeon called the launches, “a provocative action which poses a grave threat to our national security and our people.”
Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani had a similar stance on North Korea’s launches, saying they were “an act of provocation that undermines regional and international security…and will take all possible measures to deal with any situation”.
U.N sanctions prevent North Korea from using any nuclear or ballistic technology. However, tensions have risen after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January. The U.S. and South Korea said they would need the THAAD system amid increasing nuclear threats.
North Korea has conducted numerous missile tests in recent months, such as the one on July 9, where a ballistic missile was fired from a submarine and shortly afterwards fell into the water. North Korea also conducted several mid-range missile tests in June.
Seoul predicts that due to recent North Korean activity, another nuclear test is imminent.