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Reports: North Korea fired 2 ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan

North Korean ballistic missile. (Stefan Krasowski, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
March 24, 2021

On Wednesday, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, a U.S. official told Fox News.

Earlier on Wednesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) told Yonhap News Agency that North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. South Korea’s JCS said, “Further information is under analysis by South Korea-U.S. intelligence authorities.”

The reported ballistic missile launches also come just days after South Korean and U.S. military officials detected cruise missile launches off of North Korea’s west coast. On Tuesday night, Biden said North Korea’s Sunday missile launches were “business as usual” from the country and said “there’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

A week earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned President Joe Biden and the U.S. to stop war joint war drills with South Korea, saying, if the Biden administration “wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

Reuters reported Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also described the projectiles as ballistic missiles and said he would “thoroughly discuss” North Korea issues, including the launch, when he meets with Biden next month. The missiles reportedly fell short of the waters of the Japanese exclusive economic zone and Suga said the new launches pose a threat to security in the region.

Jean Lee, Director of the Korea Program at The Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., said the launches were expected based on North Korea’s previous behavior patterns, which entail “using provocations to raise tensions and garner attention,” especially during the early days of a new U.S. administration.

“North Korea uses weapons tests strategically, both to make needed improvements to its weapons and to garner global attention. With the United States hinting that it will seek to tighten the sanctions regime, North Korea will be looking to expand its arsenal by ramping up testing,” Lee added.

According to Yonhap News, North Korea last fired a ballistic missile in March 2020. North Korea reduced its missile tests in 2018 and 2019 amid denuclearization talks between then-President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un and, according to Fox News, North Korea has not fired any long-range missiles since 2018.

North Korea is banned from ballistic missile launches under U.N. Security Council resolutions, but cruise missile launches are still permitted.

North Korea gradually increased its missile tests as talks between Trump and Kim faltered in 2019. North Korea eventually imposed a 2019-year end deadline for the U.S. to propose an agreeable denuclearization deal or cease negotiations. That deadline ultimately lapsed without an agreement being reached.

North Korea recently announced it had rejected calls from the Biden administration to restart denuclearization talks where Trump left off. Last week, North Korea said the U.S. had tried to contact the country’s leaders on multiple occasions since mid-February but said it didn’t respond to what the Pyongyang government views as another “delaying-time trick.”