Seoul, South Korea
North Korea fired at least 10 missiles of various types from its east and west coasts on Wednesday, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the launches mark the first time a North Korean ballistic missile has fallen close to South Korea’s territorial waters – south of the Northern Limit Line – since the division of Korea.
The barrage of missile tests set off an air raid warning in South Korea’s Ulleungdo island that sits about 120 kilometers (75 miiles) east of the Korean Peninsula. JCS said one short-range ballistic missile fell in the international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of the island.
Wednesday’s launch is North Korea’s 29th this year, according to a CNN count, and comes after the United States and South Korea began previously scheduled military exercises called “Vigilant Storm” on Tuesday.
The maneuvers involve 240 aircraft and “thousands of service members” from both countries, according to the US Defense Department.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to meet with his South Korean counterpart Lee Jong-sup at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Experts have previously told CNN that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be sending a message by deliberately showcasing the nation’s arsenal during a period of heightened global conflict.
Last month, North Korean state media broke six months of silence over this year’s spate of missile tests, claiming they were meant to demonstrate Pyongyang’s readiness to fire tactical nuclear warheads at potential targets in the South.
The latest tests also come after the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog warned last week that Pyongyang could be preparing for a nuclear test.
“We are following this very, very closely. We hope it doesn’t happen but indications unfortunately go in another direction,” said International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi last Thursday.
Speaking Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that North Korea is launching missiles at an “unprecedentedly high frequency.”
Kishida also called for a National Security Council meeting to be held as soon as possible due to the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Earlier Wednesday, Japanese Defence Minister Yaukazu Hamada said North Korea fired at least two missiles and both were estimated to have fallen outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
No damage to aircraft or vessels has been reported at this time, and it is possible the ballistic missiles flew on an irregular trajectory, he added.
This story has been updated to reflect that North Korea fired a number of missiles of various types.