North Korea fires two suspected ballistic missiles in eastern waters, says South Korea and Japan

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern waters, one of which landed between the Korean peninsula and Japan within minutes of launch, officials in South Korea said.

This is the sixth missile launch by North Korea in just two weeks.

Thursday’s missiles were launched at 6am local time from North Korea’s capital region and landed between the Korean nations and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

While the first short range projectile flew 350km (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80km (50 miles), the second flew 800km (497 miles) with an apogee of 60km (37 miles).

Japan also confirmed a short-range ballistic missile launch, after initially claiming that one of the projectiles flew over its territory in a repeat of North Korea’s launch on Tuesday.

Prime minister Fumio Kishida’s office asked authorities to remain in combat mode and to take all possible measures for precaution. “Ensure the safety of aircraft, vessels, and other assets,” the prime minister said in a statement.

The country’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said that the missile did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Pyongyang’s second missile, he said, appeared to have been launched on an “irregular” trajectory, a term previously used to describe tests of a North Korean weapon modelled after Russia’s Iskander missile. This weapon is reported to travel at low altitudes and is designed to be manoeuvrable in flight to improve its chances of evading missile defences.

Military officials in Seoul said that they have amped up their preparations by boosting surveillance posture. South Korea maintains readiness in close coordination with the US.

North Korea’s continued launches were “absolutely intolerable”, the Japanese prime minister said.

The flurry of missile tests come in the wake of the return of the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the region for joint training exercises with South Korea, a show of strength to Kim Jong-un to demonstrate the allies’ “firm will” to counter North’s continued provocations and threats.

The redeployment of the Reagan strike group poses “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula and in its vicinity,” North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

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