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

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

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea fired its fifth ballistic missile of the year Thursday, one day after U.S. intelligence officials assessed that the communist regime had “no intention of abandoning” its weapons program.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in a message to reporters said the military had detected at least one short-range ballistic missile launched from the coastal city of Nampo toward the Yellow Sea around 6:20 p.m.

The Joint Chiefs said it was investigating the possibility that North Korea launched several ballistic missiles simultaneously.

The South Korean military “maintains a full readiness posture” and is working with the United States in surveilling the launch, the Joint Chiefs said.

While the North Korean launch “does not pose an immediate threat” to the U.S. or its allies, it “highlights the destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s ballistic missile programs, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement on Thursday.

The regime last launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast on Feb. 20 and fired an intercontinental ballistic missile eastward on Feb. 18.

Thursday’s launch came a day after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence made public an unclassified version of its annual threat assessment report. In it, the directorate said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “almost certainly views nuclear weapons and ICBMs as the ultimate guarantor of his autocratic rule and has no intention of abandoning those programs …”

“Kim is continuing to prioritize efforts to build an increasingly capable missile force designed to evade U.S. and regional missile defenses,” the report said. “Kim probably will continue to order missile tests … to validate technical objectives, reinforce deterrence, and normalize Pyongyang’s missile testing.”

North Korea fired roughly 75 missiles in 2022, an annual record, in 36 separate days of testing.

The latest launch comes as the U.S. and South Korean forces prepare to kick off their largest joint military exercises in recent years. The allies are scheduled to conduct their Freedom Shield exercise Monday through March 23 and will concurrently hold a series of large-scale field exercises dubbed Warrior Shield.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency has warned the U.S. and the South over the upcoming exercises and continues to describe them as provocative acts that destabilizes the region.

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.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now