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North Korea launches two missiles after the conclusion of joint military exercises involving the U.S., South Korea, and Japan

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry strongly criticized the “Freedom Edge” drill by the three countries, likening their trilateral security alliance to an Asian equivalent of NATO.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea conducted two ballistic missile tests on Monday, with South Korea’s military reporting that one of them may have experienced an abnormal flight pattern. This occurred shortly after North Korea had vowed to respond aggressively to a new U.S.-South Korea-Japan military exercise.

According to a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missiles were launched approximately 10 minutes apart in a northeasterly direction from the town of Jangyon in southeastern North Korea. The first missile reportedly traveled a distance of 370 miles, while the second missile flew 75 miles. However, details on their precise landing locations were not disclosed. Typically, North Korea test-fires missiles towards its eastern waters, but the shorter range of the second missile indicated it did not reach those areas.

During a subsequent briefing, Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesperson Lee Sung Joon noted that the second missile exhibited potential abnormalities during its initial flight stages. He clarified that if the missile had malfunctioned and exploded, any resulting debris would likely have fallen to the ground, although no immediate reports of damage were received. Lee added that further analysis of the second missile’s launch was currently underway.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff strongly condemned North Korea’s missile launches as provocative actions that posed a serious threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula. They emphasized South Korea’s steadfast readiness to respond to any provocations in close coordination with the United States.

This latest escalation follows a lengthy statement issued on Sunday by North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, which vehemently criticized the “Freedom Edge” military exercise involving the U.S., South Korea, and Japan. The statement likened the trilateral security partnership to an Asian version of NATO and accused the drills of undermining regional security. North Korea asserted its commitment to defending its sovereignty and regional peace through decisive countermeasures.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier, arrived in Busan, South Korea, on June 22 for joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan.Song Kyung-Seok / AP

Monday’s missile tests mark North Korea’s first weapons launch in five days. Last Wednesday, the country claimed a successful test of a multiwarhead missile designed to counter U.S. and South Korean missile defenses. However, South Korea dismissed these claims as deceptive, suggesting the test had not been as successful as stated.

In recent weeks, North Korea has engaged in symbolic acts of provocation, including sending balloons laden with propaganda leaflets towards South Korea in response to similar actions by South Korean activists. Additionally, North Korea and Russia recently signed a defense pact pledging mutual assistance in the event of an attack, raising concerns about increased provocations from Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, North Korea commenced a significant meeting of its ruling party on Friday to address urgent matters related to the advancement of its socialist agenda. Observers noted that the meeting continued into Monday, underscoring the regime’s ongoing strategic priorities amid heightened regional tensions.

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