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North Korea test-fires salvo of short-range missiles

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea test-fired a barrage of short-range ballistic missiles from multiple locations toward the sea yesterday, South Korea’s military said, extending a provocative streak in weapons demonstrations this year that United States (US) and South Korean officials said may culminate with a nuclear test explosion.

Possibly setting a single-day record for North Korean ballistic launches, eight missiles were fired in succession over 35 minutes from at least four different locations, including from western and eastern coastal areas and two inland areas north of and near the capital, Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

It said the missiles flew 110 to 670 kilometres at maximum altitudes of 25 to 80 kilometres.

South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Won In-Choul held a video conference about the launches with Gen Paul LaCamera, an American general who heads the South Korea-US combined forces command in Seoul, and they reaffirmed the allies’ joint defence posture, the JCS said in a statement.

Sung Kim, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, also discussed the launches with South Korean officials while on a visit to Seoul. They expressed “deep regret” that North Korea was continuing weapons development despite grappling with a COVID-19 outbreak at home, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said.

Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said none of the missiles fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The launches came a day after the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan concluded a three-day naval drill with South Korea in the Philippine Sea, apparently their first joint drill involving a carrier since November 2017, as the countries move to upgrade their defence exercises in the face of North Korean threats.

North Korea has long condemned the allies’ combined military exercises as invasion rehearsals and often countered with its own missile drills, including short-range launches in 2016 and 2017 that simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean ports and US military facilities in Japan.