North Korea fires missile barrage toward eastern waters days after failed satellite launch

North Korea on Thursday fired a barrage of suspected ballistic missiles toward its eastern sea, according to South Korea‘s military, days after its attempt to launch a military reconnaissance satellite ended in failure but still drew strong condemnation from its rivals. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the North firing around 10 projectiles that appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles from an area near its capital, Pyongyang. It said the suspected missiles flew around 350 kilometers (217 miles) before landing in waters off the North’s eastern coast. It said the South Korean military has increased surveillance and vigilance and is closely sharing information with the United States and Japan.

Japan’s coast guard issued a maritime safety advisory over the North Korean launches and urged ships to exercise caution if they find any fallen objects. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the suspected missiles were believed to have landed in waters outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no immediate reports of damages. He said Tokyo “strongly condemns” the launches, which are in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions against the North.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have increased in recent months as the pace of both North Korea’s weapons testing and South Korea’s combined military exercises with the United States and Japan have intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

Thursday’s launches came after North Korea flew hundreds of trash-carrying balloons toward the South since Tuesday night in retaliation against South Korean activists flying anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets across the border. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had warned of unspecified “overwhelming actions” against South Korea after it staged an aerial exercise involving 20 fighter jets near the inter-Korean border hours before North Korea attempted to launch its second military reconnaissance satellite.

The rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, but Kim has urged his military scientists to overcome the failure and continue developing space-based reconnaissance capabilities, which he described as crucial for monitoring U.S. and South Korean military activities and enhancing the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles.

Also on Thursday, North Korea hit back at international condemnation of its failed satellite launch, which drew strong rebukes from the United Nations and other countries as it involves technologies used for developing intercontinental range ballistic missiles. The North had successfully launched its first military spy satellite in November, but Monday’s failure posed a possible setback to Kim’s plans to launch three more military spy satellites in 2024.

“We will never tolerate any moves of the hostile forces to violate the inviolable sphere under the exercise of sovereignty nor step back from having access to the space reconnaissance capability which should be done surely no matter what others may say,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son Gyong said in a statement published on state media.

Kim Son Gyong’s statement came as response to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ condemnation of Monday’s launch, which he called a violation of Security Council resolutions that prohibit the North from conducting any launches involving ballistic missile technology.

Thursday’s launches were the latest in a series of weapons tests by North Korea.

On May 17, South Korea’s military said that North Korea fired suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast. North Korea later said it tested a tactical ballistic missile with a new autonomous navigation system.

The North this year tested various cruise missiles and artillery systems and flight-tested what it described as a solid-fuel intermediate range missile with hypersonic warhead capabilities. Experts say it is designed to reach remote U.S. targets in the Pacific, including the military hub of Guam.

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