North Korea fired three ballistic missiles towards the sea off its east coast on Thursday, South Korea and Japan said, in its latest tests aimed at advancing its weapons programmes, even as it reported a COVID-19 outbreak for the first time, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Three short-range ballistic missiles were fired at around 18:30 (0930 GMT) from the Sunan area of North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, where an international airport is located and where it fired its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-17, on March 24, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The missiles flew approximately 360 km (224 miles), reaching an altitude of 90 km and a maximum velocity of Mach 5, the JCS said.
The latest launches come amid concerns that North Korea may be about to resume nuclear bomb testing suspended since 2017. U.S. and South Korean officials have said this could happen as early as this month. read more
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles flew about 350 km, to the maximum altitude of around 100 km, before landing outside Japan's territorial waters.
"A series of missile launches when the invasion of Ukraine is taking place is unacceptable," he told reporters, adding that Tokyo had lodged a protest against North Korea through its embassy in Beijing.
North Korea's 16th known weapons test this year came hours after it reported its first COVID-19 outbreak, declaring a "gravest national emergency" and ordering a national lockdown. read more
The launch was also the first since the inauguration this week of conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has signalled a hard line against North Korea's weapons development.