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Belligerent North Korea ratchet up tensions, fires two ballistic missiles

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters in a fresh weapons demonstration days after US and South Korean warplanes conducted joint drills the Communist country viewed as an invasion rehearsal.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch occurred on Friday but gave no further details, such as what type of weapon was fired and how far it flew.

South Korea’s military said the missiles travelled about 250 km  (155 miles) and 350 km (220 miles), respectively, before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Japanese Vice Defence Minister Toshiro Ino said one of the missiles might have shown an “irregular” trajectory, a possible reference to North Korea’s highly manoeuvrable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile, which was modelled on Russia’s Iskander missile.

Ino also accused North Korea of significantly raising tensions with repeated weapons tests.

South Korea’s military called the launches “a grave provocation” that hurts international peace. It said South Korea would maintain a firm readiness and closely monitor North Korean moves in coordination with the US. 

READ MORE: DPRK fires two ballistic missiles: South Korea”

On Tuesday, the US flew nuclear-capable bombers and advanced stealth jets near the Korean Peninsula for joint training with South Korean warplanes. North Korea typically calls such military exercises by the US and South Korea an invasion rehearsal.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the drills were part of a bilateral agreement on the US resolve to defend its Asian ally with all available military capabilities, including nuclear.

The training came after North Korea recently claimed to have conducted critical tests needed to develop its first military spy satellite and a new strategic weapon, a likely reference to a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea said it launched a pair of rockets on Sunday to test cameras and other systems to develop its first military reconnaissance satellite. Its state media published low-resolution photos of South Korean cities as viewed from space.

Some civilian experts in South Korea and elsewhere said the photos were too crude for surveillance purposes and that the launches were likely a cover for tests of North Korea’s missile technology. South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two medium-range ballistic missiles.

Such assessments have infuriated North Korea, with the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issuing crude insults at unidentified South Korean experts. Kim Yo Jong said there was no reason to use an expensive, high-resolution camera for a single-shot test and that North Korea’s space agency used two old missiles as space launch vehicles.

North Korea has test-launched a barrage of missiles this year, including nuclear-capable ballistic weapons designed to strike the US mainland and its allies South Korea and Japan. North Korea said it was compelled to carry out such tests to respond to previous military drills between the United States and South Korea.

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