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South Korea says North Korea has launched ballistic missile toward sea

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) – North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile off its east coast on Thursday, hours after South Korean and United States (US) troops ended a fifth round of large-scale live-fire drills near the Koreas’ heavily fortified border.

The North Korean launch is its first since it failed in an attempt to put its first spy satellite into orbit in late May.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch occurred on Thursday evening but gave no further details.

Japan’s Defence Ministry also said it detected a possible ballistic missile fired by North Korea.

South Korea’s Apache AH-64 helicopter fires flares during a South Korea-US joint military drill at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, South Korea. PHOTO: AP

The launch came after North Korea’s military vowed an unspecified response to South Korean-US drills at a front-line South Korean firing range earlier on Thursday. The exercises were the fifth and last round of South Korean-US firing drills that began last month. This year’s drills were the biggest of their kind since they began in 1977.

“Our response to (the South Korean-US drills) is inevitable,” an unidentified spokesperson of the North Korean Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by state media. “Our armed forces will fully counter any form of demonstrative moves and provocation of the enemies.”

Thursday’s drills were observed by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and other senior South Korean and US military officials.

Tensions have risen in past months as the pace of both North Korean weapons tests and US-South Korea military exercises has increased in tit-for-tat responses. North Korea has test-fired about 100 missiles since the start of 2022.