South Korean military says North Korea test-fired ‘ballistic missiles’

The launches took place a day after the United States and South Korea conducted joint fighter jet drills.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 17, 2024. North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast on Friday, South Korea's military said, a day after South Korea and the U.S. flew powerful fighter jets for a joint drill that the North views as a major security threat. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
North Korea has condemned a plan by South Korea and the United States to stage combined annual military drills in August [Ahn Young-joon/AP]

North Korea has test-fired short-range “ballistic missiles” towards the Sea of Japan, the South Korean military said, a day after it conducted joint drills with the United States using stealth fighter jets to simulate air combat.

The missiles tested on Friday were equipped with a “new autonomous navigation system”, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the test launch and promised to boost the country’s nuclear force, KCNA said.

In a brief statement on Friday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launches were made from North Korea’s eastern coast region of Wonsan and described the tests as “several flying objects presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles”.

The statement did not provide further details of the latest launches but added that an analysis was under way.

It said the suspected missiles travelled about 300km (186 miles) before splashing down in waters between South Korea and Japan.

On Thursday, two South Korean F-35As and two US F-22 Raptors conducted aerial exercises over the central region of South Korea. Such drills infuriate North Korea, which views them as rehearsals for invasion.

While the South’s military did not specify the latest type of weapon, North Korean state media reported that its military has been testing multiple launch rocket systems that are being upgraded.

North Korea also denounced a plan by South Korea and the US to stage joint annual military exercises in August, warning they could face a “catastrophic aftermath” if the drills are carried out. It described them as a “nuclear attack exercise”.


Banned tests

In late April, North Korea fired a 600mm “super-large warhead” towards the same area.

North Korea is barred by multiple United Nations sanctions from any tests using ballistic technology, but its key ally Russia used its UN Security Council veto in March to effectively end UN monitoring of violations.

The UN panel of experts was investigating allegations that North Korea was transferring weapons to Moscow, with South Korea claiming in March that some 7,000 containers of arms had been sent to Russia for use in Ukraine since about July 2023.

Kim, who visited a military production facility on Friday, urged for “more rapidly bolstering the nuclear force” of the country “without halt and hesitation”.

He said the “enemies would be afraid of and dare not to play with fire only when they witness the nuclear combat posture of our state”, KCNA said on Saturday.

Earlier on Friday, Kim’s powerful sister Kim Yo Jong said the country’s tactical weapons were intended as a deterrent against South Korean military aggression and denied it exports weapons.

The US and experts have said North Korea is seeking a range of military assistance from Russia in return, such as satellite technology and upgrading its Soviet-era military equipment.

North Korea said last week it would equip its military with a new 240mm multiple rocket launcher this year, adding that a “significant change” for the army’s artillery combat capabilities was under way.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies