North Korea fired two short-range projectiles eastward on Friday, South Korea’s military said, shortly after Pyongyang warned of a “stronger” reaction over new sanctions imposed by the United States.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that two suspected ballistic missiles were launched from North Pyongan Province and traveled about 430 kilometers (267 miles) at an altitude of 36 kilometers, Yonhap News Agency reported.
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, though no details on the incident have been released.
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.
North Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement hours before the missile launch criticizing the U.S. for imposing new sanctions on the country and warning of a “stronger” response if Washington maintains its “confrontational” stance.
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on six North Koreans, one Russian, and a Russian firm it said were responsible for procuring goods from Russia and China for North Korea’s weapons programs, an action that follows a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
In a statement carried by state media Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang claimed that its recent development of a weapon was for the purpose of “modernizing the national defense capability,” not of targeting a specific country or force, nor of endangering the security of neighboring countries.
“Increasing the national defense capability is a legitimate right of a sovereign state,” the ministry said, adding that the sanctions imposed by the United States were evidence of “provocation” and “gangster logic.”
North Korea went on to criticize President Joe Biden’s administration for pursuing a policy that “isolates and suffocates” Pyongyang while calling for diplomacy and dialogue to advance denuclearization.
Talks led by the United States seeking to get North Korea to advance denuclearization—including to surrender its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenal—have been stalled since February 2019; Kim and then-President Donald Trump were unable to come to an agreement over disputes about international sanctions on Pyongyang.
The Biden administration has said it is open to a dialogue with North Korea at any time without preconditions, but the authoritarian state accused the United States of having “hostile policies” such as military drills and sanctions that it must withdraw against Pyongyang before any talks can resume.
The United States recently reiterated that it holds “no hostile intent” toward Pyongyang.
Mimi Nguyen Ly and Reuters contributed to this report.