South Korea and the United States have carried out a series of missile drills in response to North Korea’s first ballistic missile launch over Japan since 2017.
The suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile flew about 4,600km (2,850 miles) on Tuesday morning before falling into the Pacific, the longest flight for any North Korean test.
In Japan, where residents of northeastern areas heard sirens and were sent warnings to take shelter, the launch was condemned by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as “barbaric”. South Korea and the US also condemned the test and all three countries warned of a tough response.
On Wednesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said South Korean and US forces fired four surface-to-surface missiles into the sea.
The two sides each launched two Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, which hit mock targets and “demonstrated the allies’ capability to deter further provocations”, the Yonhap news agency reported, citing the JCS.
The two allies also held a bombing drill off the peninsula’s west coast involving eight fighter jets, hours after the North Korean test on Tuesday.
Pyongyang has conducted a record number of weapons tests this year, including a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
A South Korean fighter jet drops two bombs as part of a drill carried out on Tuesday.
South Korea and the US also carried out bombing drills hours after the North Korean launch [South Korean Defence Ministry/Yonhap via Reuters]
As of Wednesday morning, North Korean state media had yet to confirm the latest launch, which analysts said could have been a Hwasong-12. That missile was first tested in 2017 and can carry a nuclear warhead.
Some analysts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is committed to modernising the military, aims to use his enlarged arsenal to pressure Washington to accept his country as a nuclear state.
Six countries, including the US, the United Kingdom and Ireland, have called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over North Korea’s latest launch. The meeting could be held as early as Wednesday, but reports said Russia and China were opposed to an open discussion of the issue in the 15-member body.
Separately, South Korea’s military confirmed that a Hyunmoo-2 missile had failed shortly after launch and crashed during the live-fire drill on Tuesday night, but that no one had been injured.
The missile crashed in flames within the confines of the airbase, but the sound of the blast and subsequent fire caused worry and confusion in the coastal town of Gangneung, where some feared it was a North Korean attack, the Associated Press news agency reported.