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HomenewsNorth Korea conducts back-to-back missile launches

North Korea conducts back-to-back missile launches

North Korea has fired at least one ballistic missile, South Korea and Japan said, just hours after a separate late-night launch of a short-range missile.

“North Korea fires unidentified ballistic missile towards the East Sea,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Monday morning, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

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Japan’s defence ministry also said North Korea had fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile.

The back-to-back launches came after North Korea condemned deepening military ties between the US and South Korea, including the arrival of a submarine in South Korea, as tantamount to “a preview of a nuclear war”.

There was little initial detail on Monday’s launch. South Korea said it had been fired from Pyongyang and appeared to be long range. Japan said it was likely to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to national broadcaster NHK.

Sunday’s short-range missile was launched from the Pyongyang area towards the East Sea at about 10:38pm (13:38 GMT) and flew about 570km (354 miles) before falling into the ocean, the South Korean JCS said.

The launch followed warnings from officials in Seoul and Tokyo that nuclear-armed North Korea was preparing to test-fire a missile, including one of its longest-range ICBMs this month.

JCS said Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have “closely shared information regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile”, which was launched two days after the US and South Korea held their second session of the Nuclear Consultative Group in Washington, DC on Friday, where they discussed nuclear deterrence in the event of conflict with North Korea.

A spokesperson for North Korea’s Defence Ministry on Sunday condemned the allies’ plans to expand a key annual joint military drill next year to include a nuclear operation drill and warned of “a preemptive and deadly counteraction”.

“This is an open declaration on nuclear confrontation to make the use of nuclear weapons against the DPRK a fait accompli,” the statement carried by the KCNA news agency said, using the official acronym for North Korea.

“Any attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK will face a preemptive and deadly counteraction.”

All of North Korea’s ballistic missile activities are banned by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, although Pyongyang insists they are part of its sovereign right to self-defence.

The missile launches also came as Pyongyang marked the anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who died on December 17, 2011.

North Korea last year declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power and has repeatedly said it will never give up its nuclear programme, which the regime views as essential for its survival.

Last month, Pyongyang put a military spy satellite into orbit on its third attempt. It has since claimed its eye in the sky was already providing images of major US and South Korean military sites.

The UNSC has adopted many resolutions calling on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and imposed crippling sanctions since the country first conducted a nuclear test in 2006.

Washington and its allies have also expressed concerns about greater military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow after Kim travelled to Russia to meet its President Vladimir Putin in September.

They worry that Kim is providing badly-needed munitions to help Putin continue his war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian technological assistance to help modernise his military.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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