North Korea launched four ballistic missiles that flew about 1,000 kilometers before falling to the East Sea in waters of the Japanese Special Economic Zone (EEZ), the South Korean and Japanese governments said.
The launch took place at 7.06 North Korean time (22.36 GMT Sunday) from Dongchang-ri, northwest of the country, to the East Sea, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea. Although Seoul, in collaboration with US troops, is still analyzing all the information available to determine the type of missile, a representative of the South Korean Defense Ministry considered the probability that it is an intercontinental ballistic missile test (ICBM) is ” very small”.
The spokesman explained, in a press conference picked up by Yonhap agency, that the projectiles reached a height of “about 260 kilometers”. South Korean President Hwang Kyo-ahn said during the meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) that the launch was “a challenge and a serious provocation for the international community,” according to the presidential office. During the meeting, Hwang also called for the deployment of the controversial THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea to “strengthen deterrence” against North Korea missiles.
Last Friday North Korea threatened the launches, through its state newspaper ‘Rodong Sinmun’. For its part, Tokyo confirmed that three of the four shells landed in its Special Economic Zone (EEZ) – an area stretching some 370 kilometers from the Japanese coast – near the shores of northern Akita prefecture. “The launches clearly show that the North Korean threat has reached a new dimension,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament that he regarded these intolerable trials as “a very serious provocation” for national security.
Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada dismissed these launches as unacceptable and considered them to be “a provocative act for the security of Japan and the region.” The launch by the Pyongyang regime is believed to be a response to the joint annual maneuvers that South Korea and the United States have been conducting on South Korean territory since last week.
The head of Seoul’s National Security Office (NSO), Kim Kwan-jin, held a telephone conversation with US National Security Adviser Herbert R. McMaster, in which the two agreed to increase pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.
European Union (EU) Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini on Monday expressed solidarity with Japan and South Korea over the launch of ballistic missiles by Pyongyang, which it described as a “serious” threat to the Security. “This shows, once again, that the security threats facing the world are serious and that the EU is required to be a reliable security provider, with our neighbors but also in distant places,” he added.