YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The United States and Japan produced an effective, coordinated response to an “unprecedented challenge” Wednesday morning as North Korea launched six ballistic missiles, the senior U.S. military leader here said at a news conference.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, U.S. Forces Japan commander, said the two allies had a number of ships and aircraft in the Sea of Japan and a Shared Early Warning System was used to track the launches.

“We were ready and certainly not all that surprised,” Wright said Wednesday. “It’s something that we predicted would happen after watching the situation for a number of weeks.

“In ’98, North Korea launched one missile over northern Japan. Today, we saw a significant increase in the number of launches,” he said. “Although those missiles were launched as tests, they’re a strong, clear reminder of the dangerous environment in which we live.”

Wright declined to speculate on the timing of the North Korean missile tests or motivations behind them but said USFJ continues to closely monitor the situation with the Japan Self-Defense Forces, Joint Staff Office and U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

“We’ve been very effective in our coordination and exchanging information for a number of weeks,” Wright said. “Everyone has done a great job as we try to partner. All agencies are very engaged in their roles in the defense of Japan.”

He praised the efforts of U.S. servicemembers in addressing a difficult, evolving situation.

“We were ready and able to handle an unprecedented challenge today,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of their contributions, their courage and commitment.

“This reminds us how important each airman, soldier, sailor and Marine is to our alliance’s foundation. … We’re in one of the most challenging security environments in the world,” Wright said. “We showed we’re very ready to respond. It’s about who we are and what we do.”

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