North Korea fired two tactical guided missiles eastward on Friday as part of a drill involving the railway-borne missile regiment, state-run media said, after Pyongyang warned of a “stronger” reaction to new U.S. sanctions.
The regiment received a firepower mission from the General Staff on “short notice” on Friday morning, before launching two tactical guided missiles that “precisely strike the set target” in the East Sea of Korea, state media Korean Central News Agency reported on Saturday.
According to the authoritarian regime’s mouthpiece, the drill was aimed at “checking the alert posture” of the regiment and “bolstering their ability to discharge firepower mission.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Friday that two suspected ballistic missiles were launched from North Pyongan Province and traveled about 430 kilometers (267 miles) at an altitude of 36 kilometers.
The first missile was launched at around 2:41 p.m. on Friday, followed by the second missile at 2:52 p.m., the JCS stated.
Japan’s Defense Ministry also claimed to have detected a possible ballistic missile launch from North Korea, which flew about 400 kilometers (248 miles) at an altitude of 50 kilometers and landed outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
This marks the third reported missile launch by Pyongyang this month. North Korea previously claimed it launched two hypersonic missiles on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11, respectively, the second of which was fired under the watch of its leader Kim Jong-un.
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on six North Koreans, one Russian, and a Russian firm it said were responsible for procuring goods for North Korea’s weapons programs, an action that follows a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
In response, North Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement ahead of the latest missile launch berating the United States for imposing sanctions on Pyongyang and warning of a “stronger” reaction if Washington maintains its “confrontational” stance.
The ministry said in a statement carried by KCNA that Pyongyang’s recent weapon development was to “modernize national defense capability,” not to target a specific country or endanger the security of neighboring countries.
North Korea argued that strengthening national defense capability is a “legitimate right” of a sovereign state, claiming that the sanctions imposed by the United States amounted to “provocation” and “gangster logic.”
The nuclear-armed nation also criticized President Joe Biden’s administration for pursuing a policy that “isolates and suffocates” Pyongyang while calling for diplomacy and dialogue to advance denuclearization.
Denuclearization talks between the United States and North Korea have been stalled since 2019 due to disagreements over sanctions relief in exchange for limited denuclearization steps. North Korea accused the United States of pursuing “hostile policies,” which Washington denied and stated that it is willing to engage in dialogue with North Korea without preconditions.
Reuters contributed to this report.