By Kevin Zhang
North Korea has just fired a suspected long-range ballistic missile on Saturday, according to South Korea’s military. Pyongyang’s first test in seven weeks comes just days prior to military exercises between Seoul and Washington.
Seoul has said that its military had detected the launch of “a presumed long-range ballistic missile” fired into the East Sea from the Sunan area of Pyongyang, at around 17:22 local time. East Sea refers to the Sea of Japan.
The South Korean defense ministry issued a statement following the launch, stating, “The South Korean military maintains a full readiness posture while closely cooperating with the US and strengthening surveillance and vigilance”.
Japan also confirmed that the launch occurred, with the coast guard saying that the suspected ballistic missile had now landed, but did not give details as to the exact location.
Japan’s vice defense minister Toshiro Ino said that the missile was likely to fall “in the Sea of Japan within the exclusive economic zone of Japan, approximately 200 km west of Oshima, Hokkaido, at around 18:27 (0927 GMT)”.
Tensions between North and South Korea have risen on the Korean peninsula following North Korea’s declaration that it was an “irreversible” nuclear state and carried out sanction-violating weapons tests almost every month, including the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Saturday launch comes just days before the U.S. and South Korea are set to meet to discuss North Korea’s increasing nuclear tests and aggression on the Korean peninsula.
The exercises will emphasize “joint planning, joint management and joint response with Washington´s nuclear assets” in the event of a nuclear attack, a South Korean defense ministry official said Friday.
Pyongyang has threatened an “unprecedentedly” strong response to upcoming US-South Korea drills, comparing them to preparations for war.