North Korea Launches Short Range Ballistic Missiles Into Sea

The launch comes as the U.S. and South Korea engage in a joint military exercise despised by Pyongyang.

North Korea has fired multiple ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast. The launches on Friday build on growing tensions between the U.S. and the isolated nation in recent weeks. 

U.S. Pacific Command said it had tracked three short-range ballistic missile launches that “did not pose a threat to North America,” two of which appeared to fail in flight. Officials said another missile “appears to have blown up almost immediately.”

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the launch.

South Korea’s military notes the projectiles flew more than 150 miles, and added it was still analyzing the development, according to Yonhap. 

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said the country had conducted a “target-striking contest” on Saturday morning local time under the direction of Kim, according to a translation of a news release, although it was unclear if the contest was related to the day’s military test.

The launches come days after the U.S. and South Korea began the 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises, an annual joint military drill the two countries have held in some form for more than half a century. While the simulated war exercise is intended to help establish defense techniques for a potential attack, North Korea views the drills as confrontational. 

As the exercises commenced on Monday, North Korea once again denounced U.S. President Donald Trump, who had promised “fire and fury” earlier this month if Pyongyang threatened the United States. 

Trump’s aggressive remarks came in response to a report that Pyongyang recently managed to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, a crucial step in its efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead that could reach the United States. 

North Korea has ramped up its nuclear and missile development programs in recent months. Since February, Kim Jong Un has test-fired 18 missiles in 12 tests, compared to 24 missiles through all of last year. The leader has fired more tests than both his father and grandfather combined, CNN reported, and has finessed the technology of their weapons with each launch.

While Kim warned after Trump’s incendiary comments that North Korea may fire a missile at the U.S. territory of Guam, he appeared to back down from that threat last week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in emphasized that same day that the U.S. would not take any military action on the Korean peninsula without Seoul’s consent.

The South Korean military warned late last month that another missile test from its northern neighbor may be imminent after satellite imagery showed a high level of activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site. 

This story has been updated with news that North Korea fired multiple projectiles.