North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Thursday, the South Korean military announced. This is the last military test this year and comes after confirming that the communist country registered its first case of coronavirus. The projectile fires could underscore North Korea’s determination to push ahead with its efforts to expand its arsenal despite the virus outbreak and bolster support for the leader, Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the three missiles launched from North Korea’s capital region on Thursday afternoon flew into waters off the country’s east coast. He said the South Korean military has increased its readiness and vigilance while maintaining close coordination with the United States. Japan also detected the North Korean launches.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed officials to do their best to analyze the launch, ensure the safety of aircraft and ships in the area, and take precautions and be prepared for any possible emergencies, according to his office.
The Japanese coast guard said a possible North Korean ballistic missile was believed to have landed in the sea. He urged ships around Japanese shores to be on the lookout for falling objects and report them to authorities.
Earlier Thursday, North Korean state media confirmed the country’s first COVID-19 infections as Kim ordered nationwide lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus. Kim also ordered officials to bolster the country’s defense posture to avoid any security vacuum.
In recent months, North Korea has launched a series of test missiles in what experts call an attempt to modernize its weapons and pressure the United States and its allies to accept it as a nuclear state and relax sanctions against Korea. from North. Some observers say that despite the high strides against the virus, North Korea is likely to continue its weapons tests to try to boost public morale at home and strengthen loyalty to Kim’s leadership.
Thursday’s launches were North Korea’s first weapons since the inauguration of South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday. Yoon’s office said his national security adviser Kim Sung-han planned to call a meeting to discuss the launches.
North Korea has a history of unnerving new governments in Seoul and Washington in an apparent attempt to boost its negotiating chips in future negotiations. The nuclear threat from North Korea will likely be high on the agenda when Yoon meets US President Joe Biden in Seoul next week.
North Korea’s weapons recently tested included a variety of nuclear-capable missiles that could reach South Korea, Japan or the continental United States.
Last Saturday, South Korea detected a North Korean ballistic missile launch likely from a submarine in its first test of underwater-launched weapons since last October. There are also signs that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in nearly five years at a remote test range in the northeast.