North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes marksmanship training, March 6, 2024, in this image from the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un observes marksmanship training, March 6, 2024, in this image from the state-run Korean Central News Agency. (KCNA)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles off its eastern coast Monday morning, according to Japanese and South Korean authorities.

The weapons were launched between 7:44 a.m. and 8:22 a.m. from Sangwon county in North Hwanghae province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message to reporters. They flew more than 185 miles before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.

A news release from Japan’s Ministry of Defense said North Korea fired three ballistic missiles to a maximum altitude of 30 miles and all three fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

The South Korean military has strengthened its surveillance capabilities in preparation for additional launches and will work closely with U.S. and Japanese authorities to analyze them, the Joint Chiefs said.

The Japanese Coast Guard issued an alert Monday morning about a possible ballistic missile launch and advised ships in Japanese waters to avoid fallen objects but to report anything found.

Tokyo “strongly protested and strongly condemned” North Korea’s actions, the defense ministry said.

“Actions by North Korea, including its repeated launches of ballistic missiles, threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community,” the release said. “Furthermore, such ballistic missile launches violate relevant [U.N.] Security Council resolutions and are a serious issue concerning the national safety.”

North Korea’s last ballistic-missile launch, a solid-fuel intermediate-range weapon on Jan. 14, flew around 620 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan. The communist regime fired 24 ballistic missiles, five of them intercontinental range, last year.

From Jan. 5-7, Pyongyang fired around 350 artillery shells toward its southern maritime border, according to South Korea’s military. The North also launched several cruise missiles over a 10-day span starting Jan. 24.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in South Korea on Sunday to attend the Summit for Democracy in Seoul and meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul on Monday, according to a news release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During his meeting with Yoon, Blinken reiterated that Washington will stand with Seoul and develop a “firm response to North Korean provocations,” according to a news release from the South Korean presidential office. 

Monday’s launch comes four days after U.S. and South Korean troops wrapped up their 11-day Freedom Shield exercise. The militaries described the large-scale training held throughout South Korea as defensive in nature; however, North Korea’s state-run media labeled it a rehearsal for an invasion.

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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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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