North Korea fires two ballistic missiles early Monday, warns of turning Pacific into a ‘firing range’

North Korea added to a string of missile launches with two more ballistic missiles being fired off its east coast on Monday morning. Japan’s Defence Ministry said that data suggests the missiles were fired at around 7 am Monday. A statement by the Japanese ministry said that the missiles fell into the Sea of Japan “to the east of the Korean Peninsula, outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone”. North Korea came out and acknowledged that it had fired missiles, terming the exercise a “super-large multiple rocket launcher exercise, which is a means of tactical nuclear attack.”  Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un’s sister warned US forces to halt military drills, saying the reclusive nuclear state could turn the Pacific into a “firing range”.

The North’s state-run television KRT confirmed that two projectiles were fired from a multiple rocket launcher, aiming at targets 395 km (245 miles) and 337 km (209 miles) away, respectively. The latest launch comes just two days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea off Japan’s west coast.

North Korea said that the exercise was a response to the combined air force drills being held by the United States and South Korea. Both countries conducted joint air training on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense. North Korea had warned Friday of “unprecedented strong responses” if military exercises were conducted.

According to Japan’s Defense Ministry, the first missile was launched at around 6:59 am local time, while the second missile was fired at around 7:10 am. 

Meanwhile, right aroung the time the missiles were launched, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, came out and warned against increased presence of US strategic assets on the Korean peninsula. She was referring to the joint drills United States held with its Asian allies over the weekend.

“The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the US forces’ action character,” she said in a statement carried by KCNA.

“Instead of doubting or worrying about other people’s technologies, it would be better to think more deeply about countermeasures to defend yourself,” Kim said.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles flew 390 km and 340 km and termed the launches as a “grave provocation” that should be ceased immediately. “We will maintain solid readiness posture based on security cooperation with the United States and Japan and our ability to overwhelmingly respond to any provocations by North Korea,” it said in a statement.

Seoul’s foreign ministry placed sanctions on four individuals and five entities linked to Pyongyang’s weapons programmes on Monday, including one South African national and two Singaporean shipping firms.

(With inputs from agencies)

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