North Korea fired what appeared to be a long-range ballistic missile on Monday, South Korea’s military said, its second missile launch in less than 12 hours as Pyongyang condemned a U.S.-led show of force against the nuclear armed state.
The missile was fired from an area near the capital Pyongyang towards the sea off the North’s east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Japan’s defense ministry also said North Korea has fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile and its coast guard said it fell into the sea west of Hokkaido about an hour after launch.
The missile’s flight range and maximum altitude, were not immediately available. Japan’s NHK broadcaster said it could be a long-range missile, citing Japan’s Defense Ministry.
The international airport serving Pyongyang is where the North previously launched ICBMs and is suspected to be the location of a missile assembly facility.
Last week, South Korea’s deputy national security advisor said the North may be readying to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, this month, declining to provide any details.
Monday’s missile launch came after North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday night, flying about 570 km (350 miles) from an area near Pyongyang and falling into the ocean.
North Korea followed up that launch with a fiery statement condemning the United States for orchestrating what it called a “preview of a nuclear war,” including the arrival of a nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea on Sunday.
On Friday, following a high-level meeting by U.S. and South Korean officials on the use of U.S. strategic military weapons to deter North Korea’s military threat, the United States warned any nuclear attack would lead to the end of the regime.
South Korea condemned the North’s Sunday missile launch as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology, which Pyongyang rejects as an infringement of its right to self defense.
After the late-night launch, North Korea’s defense ministry criticized “military gangsters” in the United States and South Korea for raising tensions with drills, displays of force, and nuclear war planning.
The statement by an unnamed ministry spokesman cited the arrival of the U.S. nuclear-powered submarine Missouri in the South Korean port city of Busan on Sunday.
Visits by U.S. nuclear submarines had previously been rare, but they have increased under agreements between Seoul and Washington that have boosted the arrivals of U.S. military assets including a nuclear ballistic missile submarine and long-range strategic bombers.
The USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. aircraft carrier, also arrived at Busan last month as part of an effort to increase deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The North Korean defense ministry also condemned the meeting by South Korean and U.S. officials in Washington as yet another sign of efforts to streamline war preparations and a provocative show of force.
The United States and South Korea have increased the intensity of joint military drills against rising threats from the North, which had tested a range of ballistic missiles and in November launched its first military spy satellite.
Pyongyang tested a long-range ballistic missile in July, which analysts said was a successful launch of a solid-fuel ICBM that flew on a lofted trajectory and reached an altitude of 6,648 kilometers (4,131 miles) before dropping into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula.
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