SEOUL, March 19 (AP): North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward the sea on Sunday, its neighbors said, ramping up testing activities in response to US-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal.
The missile launched from the North's northwestern region flew across the country before it landed in the waters off its east coast, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
It said South Korea's military has boosted its surveillance posture and maintains a readiness in close coordination with the United States.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said a suspected North Korean missile was launched on Sunday morning. It said the suspected weapon landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone. There were no immediate reports of damage in the area.
The launch was the North’s third round of weapons tests since the US and South Korean militaries began their joint military drills last Monday.
The latest US-South Korean drills, which include computer simulations and field exercises, are to continue until Thursday. The field exercises are the biggest of their kind since 2018.
The North views such US-South Korean military drills as a practice to launch an invasion, though Washington and Seoul have steadfastly said their training is defensive in nature.
The weapons North Korea recently tested include its longest-range Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the U.S. mainland. The North’s state media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying the ICBM launch was meant to "strike fear into the enemies.”
A day before the start of the drills, North Korea also fired cruise missiles from a submarine.
The North’s state media said the submarine-launched missile was a demonstration of its resolve to respond with "overwhelming powerful” force to the intensifying military maneuvers by "the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces.” - AP