North Korea allegedly fired a long-range ballistic missile, the South Korean military said Wednesday, days after Pyongyang threatened to shoot down US spy planes violating its airspace.
The armed forces “detected what is believed to be a long-range ballistic missile fired from the Pyongyang area around 10:00 am (0100 GMT) into the East Sea,” also known as the Sea of Japan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in Seoul.
Japan also confirmed the launch, with its Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada saying the communist country had fired “at least one” ballistic missile in an easterly direction.
Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their worst moments, with no diplomatic contacts between the two countries and an increase in weapons tests by the North, whose leader Kim Jong Un called for further development of his nuclear arsenal.
For their part, the United States and South Korea increased their joint military exercises in the area and promised to finish off the North Korean regime if it uses its nuclear weapons.
The latest shot comes just two days after North Korea accused the United States of violating its airspace with spy planes and condemned its plans to deploy nuclear submarine missiles near the peninsula.
A spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of National Defense said the United States “has intensified espionage activities beyond wartime levels.”
“There is no guarantee that an incident as shocking as shooting down a US Air Force strategic reconnaissance aircraft” will not occur in the Sea of Japan, the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
The shooting coincides with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s attendance at a NATO summit this week in Lithuania, where he seeks to strengthen cooperation with the alliance in the face of the growing military threat from Pyongyang, the presidential office in Seoul said. .
“Pyongyang often time their shows of force to disrupt what they perceive to be diplomatic coordination against them, in this case the leaders of South Korea and Japan meeting during the NATO summit,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at the Ewha University of Seoul.