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North Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles After US and South Korea Bolster Nuclear Deterrence Plans

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, according to the South Korean military.

The South Korean military said in a statement that the launch was made on Monday morning and that the missile flew about 1,000km before falling into the sea.

Japan’s defence ministry also said it detected a suspected ballistic missile launch by North Korea. The government was calling a meeting of its national security council in response.

The second launch came hours after South Korea reported the North had conducted a short-range ballistic missile test into the sea in a resumption of its weapons testing activities.

Observers said the North’s back-to-back launches were likely a protest against the moves by South Korea and the United States to bolster their nuclear deterrence plans in the face of North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats.

Senior US and South Korean officials met in Washington over the weekend and agreed to update their nuclear deterrence and contingency strategies and incorporate nuclear operation scenarios in their combined military exercises next summer.

On Sunday, North Korea’s defence ministry criticised its rivals’ move to include nuclear operation scenarios in their joint drills, describing it as an open threat to potentially use nuclear weapons against the North. It vowed to prepare unspecified “offensive countermeasures.”

Animosities between the two Koreas deepened after North Korea launched its first military reconnaissance satellite into space on 21 November in violation of UN bans.

South Korea, the US and Japan strongly condemned the launch, viewing it as an attempt by the North to improve its missile technology as well as establish a space-based surveillance system.

South Korea announced plans to resume frontline aerial surveillance in response. North Korea quickly retaliated by restoring border guard posts, officials in Seoul said. Both steps would breach a 2018 inter-Korean deal on easing frontline military tensions.

Source : The Guardian