North Korea fires missile toward sea

·2-min read

North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea says, in the latest such move to advance its weapons programs on the day it first reported a COVID-19 outbreak.

Japan's coastguard confirmed the launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea, citing its military. The projectile appeared to fall outside Japan's exclusive economic zone, public broadcaster NHK said.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said three short-range ballistic missiles were fired from the Sunan area of the North's capital, Pyongyang, where an international airport is located and where the North had said it fired its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-17, on March 24.

The missiles flew approximately 360km, reaching an altitude of 90km and a maximum velocity of Mach 5, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The firing was the first after the inauguration this week of conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has signalled a hard line against the North's weapons development.

The launch, the North's 16th known weapons test this year, also came hours after it reported its first COVID-19 outbreak, declaring a "gravest national emergency" and ordering a national lockdown.

Yoon's national security office issued a statement condemning the launch and saying it "deplored the duplicitous conduct" of firing ballistic missiles and ignoring the plight of its people in the middle of a COVID outbreak.

In its last weapons test on Saturday, the North used a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which it has been aggressively developing in recent years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed late last month to expedite the country's buildup of nuclear arsenal, amid stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States.

US and South Korean officials have said Pyongyang's first nuclear test since 2017 could take place as early as this month.

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