North Korea launches missiles as U.S.-S. Korea conclude annual exercise

North Korea late Wednesday launched two ballistic missiles in response to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
North Korea late Wednesday launched two ballistic missiles in response to joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- North Korea launched two ballistic missiles late Wednesday as part of what Pyongyang called a tactical nuclear strike drill it held in response to exercises conducted by South Korea and the United States involving at least one strategic bomber.

The missiles were launched from the west coast of North Korea, flying over the Korean Peninsula and splashing into sea off its east coast, Japan's ministry of defense said in a statement, adding that the missiles appeared to have landed outside Tokyo's exclusive economic zone.


The first launch occurred at about 11:38 p.m. JST and flew for some 217 miles at a max altitude of about 31 miles. The second occurred at about 11:46 p.m., flew for 248 miles at the same max altitude.

No damage to nearby aircraft or ships has been reported, Tokyo said.

"North Korea's series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community," the ministry said.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the launches and was consulting with allies and partners.

"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's illicit weapons program," it said.


"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad."

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

The launches came as the militaries of South Korean and the United States were in the midst of conducting their annual joint 11-day Ulichi Freedom Shield exercise, which ends Thursday.

On Wednesday, the ROK-U.S. Air Force conducted joint outdoor maneuver training involving a U.S. B-1B strategic bomber. The exercise was conducted over the Yellow Sea and involved South Korean FA-50 fighter jets and U.S. F-16 warplanes.

South Korea's Ministry of Defense said the exercise was coordinated in response to North Korea's failed launch late last week of a spy satellite, it's second failure to put the orbital into space since May.

On Thursday, Pyongyang described the exercise as a "joint attack formation drill" and which represents "a serious threat to the DPRK as it was just pursuant to the scenario for a preemptive nuclear strike," according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea characterizes joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises as preparations for invasion.

North Korea confirmed in the report that its tactical nuclear-armed unit of the Korean People's Army fired two tactical ballistic missiles from Pyongyang International Airport as part of its nuclear strike drill "simulating scorched earth strikes at major command centers and operational airfields of the "ROK" military gangsters," the report said.


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