North Korea test-fired three more ballistic missiles Monday, sending a clear message to the large group of world leaders gathered in China.
“North Korea fired three ballistic missiles believed to be Rodong missiles from Hwangju County in North Hwanghae Province at around 12:14 p.m., reports the Korea Times, citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The North launched the missiles without declaring a navigational warning.”
The missiles flew around 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan. One missile reportedly entered Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Monday’s show of force comes just two weeks after North Korea successfully tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
North Korea’s latest test comes during the middle of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Hangzhou, China, where tensions on the Korean peninsula are among the hot-button issues being discussed by world leaders on the sidelines.
The U.S. “strongly condemns” North Korea’s ballistic missile tests. A senior official at the summit told CNN that the launch was “reckless” and that Obama will raise the issue at the upcoming East Asia Summit in Laos.
Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada reportedly called the launch a “serious threat” to the country’s national security. She also noted that North Korea is learning from its mistakes. The three missiles landed in the same location, indicating a high-degree of accuracy. “I think their missile technology has substantially improved,” she said.
“This is Pyongyang’s way of reminding everyone of their existence at a moment when all parties are together, in a typically defiant, North Korean way,” John Delury, assistant professor at Yonsei University in South Korea told CNN.
North Korea launched the missiles shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye concluded their talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
Despite North Korean provocations, China and South Korea are still divided on the planned deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in Seongju. China is concerned that the THAAD system will threaten its own national security interests and put too much pressure on its belligerent northern neighbor.
“Mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes,” Xi explained to Park.
Park reportedly informed the Chinese president that if China would push North Korea to end its nuclear and ballistic tests, which are in violation of resolutions put forward by the U.N., then South Korea would not need THAAD and additional missile defenses.
“At the moment, the situation on the Korean peninsula is quite complex and sensitive. We hope all relevant parties can avoid taking actions that may escalate tensions, and can make joint efforts to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula,” said China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.
After the meeting between Xi and Park, the South Korean president met with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Reuters reports. The two agreed to cooperate and monitor the increasingly dangerous situation on the peninsula together.
“We are maintaining a full readiness posture in preparation for additional provocations,” announced South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
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