North Korea fired at least three short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast early on Saturday, South Korea and the U.S. military said, as the two allies conducted annual joint military drills.
The U.S. military’s Pacific Command said it had detected ballistic missiles, fired over a 20 minute period.
One appeared to have blown up almost immediately while two flew about 250 km (155 miles) in the Northeastern direction. The South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were launched from the North’s eastern Kangwon province into the sea.
The region where the missiles were launched is a known military test site frequently used by the North for short-range missile drills, said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.
Later on Saturday, the South Korean Presidential Blue House said the North may have fired an upgraded 300-mm caliber multiple rocket launcher. Pacific Command said the missiles did not pose a threat to the U.S. mainland or to the Pacific territory of Guam.
The test came just days after senior U.S. officials praised North Korea and leader Kim Jong Un for showing restraint in not firing any missiles since late July.
Tensions had eased somewhat since a harsh exchange of words between Pyongyang and Washington after U.S. President Donald Trump had warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un he would face “fire and fury” if he threatened the United States.
North Korea’s last missile test on July 28 was for an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to fly 10,000 km (6,200 miles). That would put parts of the U.S. mainland within reach and prompted heated exchanges that raised fears of a new conflict on the peninsula.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missiles did not reach its territory or exclusive economic zone and did not pose a threat to Japan’s safety.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries are in the midst of the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills involving computer simulations of a war to test readiness and run until Aug. 31.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with the North because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North routinely says it will never give up its weapons programs, saying they are necessary to counter perceived U.S. hostility.