North Korea has launched four missiles, which flew more than 600 miles across the country before splashing into the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula.
The four missiles were fired from a known launch site on North Korea’s west coast, not far from the border with China, at 7:36 a.m. local time, Monday morning.
A US defense official said the Pentagon does not think the missile was an ICBM. “Every year this time, they try to do something to defy the exercises,” said Bruce Bennett, a North Korea expert at the Rand Corp. in California was quoted as saying by The Washington Post Sunday.
“This time, I think they’re also interested in making a statement to the Chinese and to let Beijing know this coal ban is going to hurt,” he said, referring to Beijing’s decision last month to stop importing coal from North Korea, cutting off a major economic lifeline.
“South Korea condemns North Korea’s missile launch today as a direct challenge and grave provocation despite warnings by the international community,” Hwang Kyo-ahn, the prime minister who is acting president, said during an emergency meeting of the national security council.
“North Korea’s nuclear missile provocation is a real and imminent threat against the lives and safety of South Koreans.” Kyo-ahn added.
The Japan government said that the three of the missiles had landed close, splashing down within its exclusive economic zone and within about 200 miles of its coastline in Akita prefecture.
The range of the missiles could have served as a warning to China. Moreover, the missiles had 12 of China’s 20 largest cities within reach, said Bennett.
China expressed its dismay over the launch, with a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman saying it “opposes” launches that undermine U.N. resolutions.
North Korea last month launched an intermediate-range missile, its first since Trump was elected president. The missile appeared to show significant technological advances, with upgraded power and range, and analysts said it could mark another step in the push toward the capacity to hit Alaska or Washington.