South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two ballistic missiles on Friday, the latest in a series of tests.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.
“Our military is maintaining a state of full readiness,” cooperating “closely with the United States,” and strengthening “surveillance and vigilance.”
The launch comes after a year of unprecedented weapons tests by North Korea, including the launch of its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November.
The United States and South Korea have been warning for months that Pyongyang is about to conduct its seventh nuclear test.
The powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un also insisted earlier this week that North Korea has developed advanced techniques for taking pictures from space using a spy satellite.
The Southern Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the two countries conducted joint air exercises on Tuesday and deployed a US B-52H strategic bomber to the Korean Peninsula.
The long-range heavy bomber was part of an exercise involving the most advanced military aircraft from the United States and South Korea, including the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.
Friday’s launch came hours after the White House announced that Pyongyang had delivered weapons to Russia’s private military group, Wagner.
This group is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman once dubbed “Putin’s boss”, to organize a dinner for the powerful leader.
In a statement picked up by the official KCNA news agency, North Korea’s foreign ministry denied any arms deal with Russia, saying the story was “made up by some deceitful forces”.
Despite severe international sanctions weighing on its weapons programs, Pyongyang has built up an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the most advanced example of which North Korea launched this year, and marked by a record string of weapons tests.
However, all of the ICBMs listed are liquid-fueled. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un considers developing solid-fuel engines to make more advanced missiles a strategic priority.
Liquid-fuel missiles are notoriously difficult to operate and require a long time to prepare for launch, making them slower and, for the enemy, easier to detect and destroy.
Solid fuel rockets, which are easier and more mobile, require less preparation time and are more difficult to detect before launch.
Among the goals revealed by Kim Jong-un in 2021 is the development of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be launched from land or from submarines.
Pyongyang’s leader also declared in 2022 that he wanted his country to have the world’s most powerful nuclear power, and in September described North Korea’s situation as “irreversible.”
Pyongyang has been under multiple UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs since 2006.
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