North Korea has conducted its second missile launch since last weekend according to reports issued by the South Korean and Japanese armed forces, marking the first series of likely tests conducted with U.S. President Joe Biden in office.
The Japan Coast Guard first issued a series of navigation warnings early Thursday local time for the East China Sea and Norh Pacific, Japan region, noting that an object, potentially a ballistic missile launched from North Korea, and was later confirmed by a statement from the Japanese Defense Ministry. Tokyo has been critical of such displays and condemned the act.
“The recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles by North Korea are a serious issue for the entire international community, including Japan,” the statements added. “In order to protect the lives and property of the people, we will continue to do our utmost to collect and analyze information and to monitor alerts.”
Two senior U.S. administration officials described the platform involved at the time as a short-range system and said such testing falls in the category of normal military activity and on the low end of potential North Korean military options which includes medium and intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as nuclear warheads.
In addition to the two missiles launched Thursday, North Korea launched missiles on Sunday that were not assessed to be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that impose restrictions on North Korea’s vast arsenal. These launches were not reported by the U.S. until Tuesday.
A military source in South Korea told Newsweek that the event involved two cruise missiles believed to have been fired from the vicinity of Onchon, South Pyongan province early Sunday morning local time.
The South Korea government said in a statement, “North Korea this morning fired two unidentified projectiles into the East Sea from South Hamkyung Province, and South Korea and U.S. intelligence are analyzing for any additional information.” The launches were confirmed to ABC News by a United States official and South Korean joint chiefs of staff.
“While our military has strengthened awareness and monitoring, ROK-US officials are closely working together and maintaining readiness,” it added.
The Biden administration officials downplayed the missile launches from over the weekend and President Biden suggested the act was not a provocation based on information relayed to him by the Pentagon. A senior administration official also told reporters, “We see this action in the category of normal activity.”
The launches over the weekend were the first since Joe Biden moved into the White House. The Trump administration had a rather stressful relationship with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, with who Trump held multiple meetings with while in office, the first President to do so.
Kim has not carried out any long-range tests since Trump met with him in 2018. though it did restart some smaller missile tests.