North Korea has fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said, after Pyongyang warned of a strong response to upcoming US-South Korea military drills.
Japan’s coastguard also said North Korea fired what could be a ballistic missile on Saturday.
The firing comes after North Korea on Friday threatened an “unprecedentedly persistent, strong” response as South Korea and the US gear up for annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the North’s growing nuclear and missile threats.
Nuclear-armed North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could strike anywhere in the US, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.
US-South Korea nuclear drills, called the deterrence strategy committee tabletop exercise, are scheduled for Wednesday at the Pentagon and will involve senior defence policymakers from both sides, Seoul’s defence ministry said.
The two countries are also planning a range of expanded field exercises, including live fire drills, in coming weeks and months.
About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended in an armistice rather than a full peace treaty, leaving the parties technically at war.
Pyongyang may have created a military unit tasked with operating new ICBMs, in line with its recent restructuring of the military, state media video footage from a 9 February parade suggested.