Fri, 09 Dec 2022

seoul, south korea - North Korea fired two more ballistic missiles into the sea Saturday, adding to its record-breaking pace of launches this year, South Korean officials said.

The North fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the Pyongyang area into the waters off its east coast, according to South Korea's military, which closely tracks the launches.

North Korea has launched seven missiles this week, including just before and after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited South Korea.

While visiting the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas, Harris condemned North Korea's "brutal dictatorship" and said the launches were "clearly a provocation."

Harris also met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative who has pushed for a tougher military response toward the North Korean threat.

Since the beginning of the year, North Korea has fired 38 ballistic missiles, including long-range missiles meant to target the U.S. mainland and short-range weapons that threaten U.S. allies in Japan and South Korea.

North Korea has also made preparations to conduct its seventh nuclear test, according to U.S. and South Korean officials, a step that could further raise regional tension.

While North Korea's short-range ballistic tests are less important than a nuclear test, they still violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

"Pyongyang's actions again make clear the need for Washington and Seoul to reinforce military deterrence, tighten economic sanctions and increase policy coordination with Tokyo," Easley added.

On Friday, the United States, South Korea and Japan held anti-submarine military exercises off the coast of Korea for the first time since 2017.

Over the last several years, Seoul-Tokyo ties have been strained by disputes related to Japan's occupation of Korea before World War II.

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