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North Korea fires ballistic missiles at the East Sea military and Seoul

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SEOUL – North Korea has fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the sea off South Korea’s east coast, Seoul’s military said Monday, the latest in an apparent salvo of tests by Pyongyang this year.

“North Korea has fired an unidentified missile into the East Sea,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of ​​Japan.

Tokyo also confirmed the launch, with Japan’s Defense Ministry saying “a suspected ballistic missile was launched from North Korea” in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Japan’s coast guard, citing the Defense Ministry, said shortly after the initial announcement that the missile appeared to have already fallen.

Japanese media, including public broadcaster NHK, reported that the suspected missile fell outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, citing unnamed government sources.

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Seoul-based specialist NK News said the “short flight time, probably less than ten minutes, indicates the launch involved a short-range ballistic missile or a 600mm multiple rocket system (MLRS).”

The latest launch comes after UN sanctions on the nuclear-armed country were lifted by Russia last month.

Pyongyang’s ally Moscow used its United Nations Security Council veto in March to effectively end U.N. monitoring of violations of the raft of sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s government over its nuclear and weapons program.

On Friday, North Korea tested a “super-large nuclear warhead” designed for a strategic cruise missile, state media said, with Seoul’s military confirming it had detected cruise missile launches around the same time.

Unlike their ballistic counterparts, cruise missile testing is not banned under current UN sanctions on North Korea.

Cruise missiles are typically jet-propelled and fly at a lower altitude than more advanced ballistic missiles, making them more difficult to detect and intercept.

Analysts have warned that North Korea could test cruise missiles before sending them to Russia for use in Ukraine, with Washington and Seoul claiming Kim has shipped weapons to Moscow despite UN sanctions banning such actions.

Seoul claims that Pyongyang sent about 7,000 containers of weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine.

The largely isolated country has recently strengthened military ties with Moscow and this month thanked Russia for its veto blocking the extension of a panel of U.N. experts monitoring international sanctions on the country.

It has also ramped up testing, claiming to have tested a new medium-to-long-range hypersonic solid-fuel missile in early April.

This year, Pyongyang declared South Korea its “main enemy,” jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over “even 0.001 mm” of territorial intrusion.

Last year, the North carried out a record number of missile tests, in defiance of UN sanctions in place since 2006 and despite warnings from Washington and Seoul.

Pyongyang declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear weapons state in 2022.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Seoul last month, will be back in the region this week, making his second visit to China in less than a year.

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