In its latest weapons demonstration, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles, which are short range, toward its eastern waters on Friday.

It came just days after U.S. and South Korean warplanes conducted joint drills that North Korea sees as an invasion rehearsal, reported the Associated Press. This year, North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests. Some experts call it an attempt to bolster its weapons capability. They also see it as an attempt to pressure its rivals to make concessions like sanctions relief in future negotiations.

Recently, North Korea also claimed to have performed major tests that were needed to acquire its first spy satellite and a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland.

On Friday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said that the missiles were launched Friday from the Sunan area of Pyongyang, which is North Korea’s capital, towards the sea off its east coast, reported Al Jazeera. It said in a statement that South Korea's military "maintains a full readiness posture while closely cooperating with the U.S. while strengthening surveillance and vigilance." It isn’t clear exactly what kinds of missiles North Korea fired, but South Korea’s military said that the missiles traveled about 250 kilometers (155 miles) and 350 kilometers (220 miles) respectively. Then they landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

One missile that was detected by Japan flew as far as 300 kilometers (180 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles), said Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino. The missile might have showed an “irregular” trajectory, he said. It was a possible reference to North Korea’s nuclear-capable KN-23 missile. It was modeled on Russia’s Iskander missile.

The launches were called “a grave provocation” by South Korea’s military, and they said that it hurts international peace. The latest launches by North Korea could be a response to the U.S.-South Korean aerial military exercises that happened near the Korean Peninsula last Tuesday. North Korea had said that its run of testing activities in the last few months were meant to be treated as a warning over its rivals’ previous combined drills. South Korea and the U.S. said that their drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea sees them as practice for an invasion.

In recent months, North Korea has test-fired many ballistic missiles, including the launch of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November.

The White House said on Thursday that North Korea completed an initial arms delivery of infantry rockets and missiles to the Wagner Group, which is a private Russian military company, to help Russian forces in Ukraine. Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin called it “gossip and speculation," reported Reuters. On Friday, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry denied a Japanese media report on munitions shipments to Russia. It called the report “groundless."

North Korea has conducted a flurry of sanctions-busting weapons tests
North Korea has conducted a flurry of sanctions-busting weapons tests. Photo by: AFP/Anthony Wallace

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