The North Korea missile launch program has increased tension among its neighboring countries after the secluded nation fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Northwest of Japan on Monday.
The missile launch is in complete violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions with the region not to engage in nuclear or missile testing because it puts the world in danger.
The exercise also posed a direct threat to South Korea, happening days after North Korea promised retaliation over South Korea and US military drills which they say is a preparation for war.
North Korea criticizes the annual drills and has previously conducted missile launches to coincide with the exercises.
According to the South Korean military, the missiles were fired from the Tongchang-ri region, near the North’s border with China.
South Korean military further said the missiles were unlikely to have been intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), that could reach the United States. The missiles flew an average of 1,000 km (620 miles) and reached a height of 260 km (160 miles).
Some of the missiles landed in waters as close as 300 km (190 miles) from Japan’s northwest coast, Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said in Tokyo.
Speaking to the press, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called it a “new stage of threat.” Strong protests had been lodged with nuclear-armed North Korea, which has carried out a series of nuclear and missile tests in defiance of U.N. resolutions.
South Korea’s acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn condemned the North Korea Missile Launch saying it’s a direct challenge to the international community adding that they would deploy a U.S. anti-missile defense system despite angry objections from China.
The US military said later it had detected and tracked the launch but had determined that it did not pose a threat to North America.
State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement:
“The United States strongly condemns the DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) ballistic missile launches, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology.”
The United States withdrew nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 before the rival Koreas signed a declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. North Korea has since walked away from the agreement, citing the threat of invasion by the United States.
North Korea conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test last September, following what the United States said was an “unprecedented” level of activity in its banned nuclear and missile programs.
The United States has about 28,500 troops and equipment stationed in the South Korea and plans to roll out the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system by the end of the year if the North Korea missile launch continues.