North Korea fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles on Monday morning, Seoul defense officials said, hours before the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier conducted exercises with the South Korean navy. Photo by Yonhap
March 27 (UPI) -- North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea between Korea and Japan on Monday, Seoul defense officials said, hours before the nuclear-powered USS Nimitz aircraft carrier conducted exercises with the South Korean navy.
The South Korean military detected two missiles fired from the Chunghwa County area in North Hwanghae Province, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters. The missiles flew around 230 miles before splashing into the sea.
The JCS condemned the launches as "grave provocations that undermine peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as well as the international community."
"The South Korean military is capable of overwhelmingly responding to any provocation and is keeping a close eye on North Korea's activities while continuing to intensively carry out joint training," the statement said.
Japan also detected and reported the missile launch on Monday morning. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno, Tokyo's top spokesman, said at a briefing that Japan expects North Korea to step up its activities, including further ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests.
Pyongyang's latest provocation comes as South Korea and the United States held joint maritime drills in the waters south of the Korean Peninsula on Monday. The USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group trained with the South's major warships, a South Korean navy spokesman said.
"This exercise is conducted to improve combined operation capabilities and strengthen extended deterrence execution capabilities through the deployment of U.S. strategic assets in a situation where North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are getting more sophisticated," spokesman Jang Do-young said at a press briefing.
On Tuesday, the Nimitz will make a port call in Busan, 200 miles southeast of Seoul, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group visited Busan in September, as Washington and Seoul have strengthened military ties amid the North's growing military threats.
The allies are currently holding their joint Ssangyong amphibious landing exercise, which kicked off last week and is scheduled to run until April 3.
South Korea and the United States also wrapped up their 11-day Freedom Shield joint military exercise on Thursday, which Pyongyang angrily denounced as preparation for an invasion.
North Korea conducted several missile launches during the exercise, including a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile test last week. Last weekend, the secretive regime held a drill to prepare for a nuclear counterattack, according to state-run media.