North Korea launched two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan on Thursday, underscoring steady progress in its weapons programme and ramping up pressure on the new U.S. administration as it reviews North Korea policy. The Japanese government said one missile flew about 450km and landed outside the Japanese exclusive economic zone. UN Security Council resolutions banned North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and if the launch is confirmed it would represent a new challenge to President Joe Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang.
Japan lodged a formal protest through its embassy in China and said the test threatened peace and safety in the region, while South Korea’s National Security Council expressed deep concern. The launches coincided with the start of the Olympic torch relay in Japan on Thursday, beginning a four-month countdown to the Summer Games in Tokyo which were delayed from 2020 due to the pandemic. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier reported at least two “unidentified projectiles” were fired into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan from North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province on the east coast.
South Korean and US intelligence agencies were analyzing the data of the launch for additional information, the JCS said in a statement. South Korea’s presidential Blue House will convene an emergency meeting of the national Security Council to discuss the launches. Japan’s coast guard warned ships against coming close to any fallen objects and asked them to provide information to the coast guard.