North Korea test-fired two more ballistic missiles for the third time this month on Friday just hours after threatening the United States with a “stronger and certain reaction” to sanctions.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command confirmed North Korea’s launch in a statement on Friday, saying, “We are aware of the ballistic missile launch and are consulting closely with our allies and partners. While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the South Korean military “detected two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles” that North Korea fired towards the East Sea from Uiju, North Pyonganbuk-do, ABC News reported.
The launch came just hours after a North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson expressed anger over sanctions implemented by the U.S. this week. On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department sanctioned eight individuals and entities linked to North Korea’s weapons programs. The U.S. also suggested that the U.N. Security Council impose new sanctions on North Korea.
“The U.S. is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the D.P.R.K.’s just activity to the U.N. Security Council,” the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “If the U.S. adopts such a confrontational stance, the D.P.R.K. will be forced to take stronger and certain reaction to it.”
Cheong Seong-Change from South Korea’s Sejong Institute said Friday’s launches reflected North Korea’s irritation with U.S. sanctions.
“Considering that North Korea has been testing new weapons at dawn or early morning, it’s reasonable to assume that North’s missile test launch this afternoon was improvised to showcase backlash against the U.S. sanctions,” he told ABC News.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday that sanctions only serve to make tensions worse in the Korean Peninsula.
“Willful sanctions do not help resolve the Korean Peninsula issue, but only worsen the confrontational mood,” Wenbin said.