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A North Korean missile is launched in this image released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

A North Korean missile is launched in this image released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (KCNA)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile Wednesday into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, according to the South’s military.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in its message to reporters said one missile was fired from South Pyongan province at 3:31 p.m. Wednesday. The Joint Chiefs estimated the missile flew 180 miles at an altitude of 19 miles.

South Korea’s military “maintains full preparedness” as it cooperates with the United States in analyzing the missile launch, the Joint Chiefs said.

Wednesday’s launch is North Korea’s 31st round of missile testing so far this year. North Korea last tested four short-range missiles on Saturday, adding to the already unprecedented rate of over 65 missiles launched this year.

North Korea’s missile tests are a response to the “intolerable and unpardonable” joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Monday. The U.S. and South Korea resumed a series of military exercises this year after a five-year pause during the tenure of former South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Seoul and Washington on Saturday wrapped up their six-day Vigilant Storm aerial exercise in which 240 aircraft flew about 1,600 sorties.

The latest North Korean launch comes hours after South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said it found debris from one of the 23 missiles fired by the communist regime on Nov. 2. That missile flew south of the Northern Limit Line, a de facto maritime border between North and South Korea, and landed in the South’s waters for the first time, the ministry said in a news release.

Evidence from the missile debris found in the East Sea indicates it could be a Soviet-era SA-5 missile, like the one fired in the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, according to the Defense Ministry.

The Nov. 2 missile launch was a “deliberate provocation,” the Defense Ministry said in its release.

On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned two men in China, Ri Sok and Yan Zhiyong, after determining they had ties to Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-run airline. The sanctions freeze their assets in the U.S. and prohibit U.S. citizens from future business dealings with them.

“Today’s sanctions action targets two key nodes of [North Korea’s] weapons programs: its increasing reliance on illicit activities, including cybercrime, to generate revenue, and its ability to procure and transport goods in support of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs,” Brian Nelson, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a news release on Tuesday.

David Choi is based in South Korea and reports on the U.S. military and foreign policy. He served in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard. He graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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