North Korea conducts fourth missile launch in a week as joint drills continue
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Saturday in its fourth such provocation in less than a week.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the missiles fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang between 6:45 and 7:03 a.m. The missiles flew some 350 kilometers and reached an altitude of about 30 kilometers with a speed of Mach Six.
The JCS said an in-depth analysis by South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities is ongoing.
Similar launches were carried out last Sunday and on Wednesday and Thursday.
Pyongyang has conducted 20 ballistic missile and two cruise missile tests so far this year.
The latest back-to-back launches are seen as a protest to joint drills by South Korea and the U.S. and a trilateral exercise also involving Japan held this week.
During a visit to a U.S. aircraft carrier participating in combined military exercises on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs of Staff(JCS) Chairman Kim Seung-kyum said a North Korean provocation would be met by a strong response.
According to the JCS, Kim and Gen. Paul LaCamera, the commander of the Combined Forces Command(CFC), were briefed on the ongoing exercise aboard the USS Ronald Reagan on Tuesday.
Kim said that the Seoul-Washington alliance will sternly respond to any type of North Korean provocation or aggression, adding that Pyongyang will be reminded that there is no scenario in which the regime survives should it attempt a nuclear strike.
The JCS chief said the allies are expected to maintain a readiness posture against North Korean threats and continue cooperation to strengthen the implementation of Washington's extended deterrence.
Emphasizing that the U.S.’ commitment to South Korea's defense and its extended deterrence pledge are ironclad, LaCamera said the U.S. carrier strike group's participation in the combined drills displays such commitment.
Participating in South Korean naval exercises for the first time since 2017, the 97-thousand-ton Ronald Reagan is capable of carrying some five-thousand sailors and 90 aircraft, including F/A-18E Super Hornets and E-2D Hawkeye early warning and control aircraft.
Drills continued throughout the week, with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force joining on Friday for the first three-way anti-submarine exercise since April 2017.