North Korean despot Kim Jong Un has fired two more ballistic missiles towards Japan as tensions with the US continue to mount.
Thursday’s missile launch, announced by South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the sixth in 12 days and the first since the reclusive regime fired an intermediate-range missile over its easterly neighbour on Tuesday.
That launch, the first of its kind in five years, sparked joint missile drills by South Korea and the United States and a return of aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the sea between Korea and Japan.
The latest missile launches suggest Kim Jong Un is determined to continue with weapons tests aimed at boosting his nuclear arsenal in defiance of international sanctions. Many experts believe Kim’s goal is to eventually win US recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and the lifting of said sanctions, though the international community to date has shown no sign of allowing that to happen.
Thursday’s missiles were launched 22 minutes apart from the North’s capital region and landed between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The first missile flew 350 kilometers (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) on an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles).
The flight details were similar to Japanese assessments announced by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, who confirmed that the missiles didn’t reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
He added that the second missile was possibly launched on an ‘irregular’ trajectory.
It is a term that has been previously used to describe the flight characteristics of a North Korean weapon modeled after Russia’s Iskander missile, which travels at low altitudes and is designed to be maneuverable in flight to improve its chances of evading missile defenses.
South Korea’s military said it has boosted its surveillance posture and maintains readiness in close coordination with the United States.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea’s continued launches were ‘absolutely intolerable.’
Separately on Thursday, North Korea condemned the US for repositioning its aircraft carrier in the waters off the Korean peninsula.
The move posed a ‘serious threat’ to the stability in the region, it said in a statement released by the reclusive nation’s foreign ministry.
It comes a day after the US accused China and Russia of enabling North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
They accused the countries of protecting Pyongyang from attempts to strengthen UN Security Council sanctions, which were imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.