By Caden Pearson
North Korea on Thursday fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan a day after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier to waters in the region in response to the authoritarian regime firing a missile over Japan on Tuesday.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and the office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirmed the missile launch on Thursday morning, local time.
North Korea launched two missiles, 22 minutes apart, the South Korean JCS said in a statement. Kishida called the weapons firings “absolutely intolerable.”
In response, South Korea and the United States are boosting their surveillance posture and maintaining readiness.
The USS Ronald Reagan, which recently took part in military exercises alongside Japan and South Korea in late September, changed course to return to the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s missile launches.
South Korea’s military has said the return of the U.S. aircraft carrier strike group demonstrates the “firm will” of the country’s allies to counter the belligerent regime’s provocations and threats.
North Korea considers the recent military drills near the peninsula by South Korea and its allies an invasion rehearsal.
Thursday’s launch is the sixth round of weapons firing in the last two weeks, putting the region on edge and fueling speculation that North Korea will carry out a nuclear weapons test in mid-October.
North Korea’s launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean forced Japanese citizens to seek shelter. Experts suspect it was a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and beyond. It was the first such weapons test in five years.
US, South Korea Respond
The United States and South Korea have so far responded to North Korea’s provocations with their own live fire drills, including launching ballistic missiles into the sea and dropping precision-guided bombs from fighter jets.
One of the South Korean Hyumoo-2 missile launches malfunctioned upon liftoff and crashed into an air force base on Wednesday. No one was injured.
The international community has condemned North Korea’s missile launches. The United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway, and Ireland called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
North Korea carried out a record number of missile tests this year amid long-stalled diplomacy with the United States.
South Korean lawmakers believe North Korea may be preparing for another nuclear test in mid-October ahead of the November U.S. midterm elections and at the time of the Chinese regime’s party congress, which is scheduled for Oct. 16.
North Korea aims to expand its nuclear arsenal to boost its leverage in future negotiations with the United States, according to observers.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo believes North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is a puppet of the Chinese Communist Party, which he said uses Pyongyang as “an important buffer state,” causing Washington to spend energy defending East Asia against North Korea’s nuclear weapons systems.