NORTH Korea has fired eight ballistic missiles from multiple locations at the same time amid fears Kim Jong-un could be preparing a fresh nuclear test.
The dictator has vowed to ramp up his weapons programme this year and boasted that he would “shake the world” with yet more missile tests.
The latest volley of missiles were launched on Sunday from multiple locations towards the sea over a 30-minute period, South Korea said.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “Our military detected eight short-range ballistic missiles fired by North Korea.”
They travelled different distances – from 68 miles to 416 miles – and flew at different altitudes of up to 55 miles.
Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the simultaneous test-firing from multiple locations was “unusual”.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
According to local reports, two missiles were shot from each site – the largest number of ballistic missiles North Korea has recently launched on a single day.
Analysts said the missile launches – one of nearly 20 weapons tests by Pyongyang so far this year – is a chilling message for Seoul and Washington.
Cheong Seong-jang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, said: “It shows North Korea’s intention to neutralise the missile defence system of South Korea and the United States with multiple simultaneous attacks during emergency.”
Analysts have warned Kim could speed up nuclear testing plans to distract North Korea’s population from the disastrous Covid outbreak.
Despite struggling with the rampant Covid outbreak, the country has resumed construction on a long-dormant nuclear reactor, according to new satellite pictures.
South Korea said Pyongyang carried out tests of a nuclear detonation device in preparation for its first nuclear test since 2017.
And the move comes barely a day after South Korea and the US wrapped up three-day exercises involving the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-tonne nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
The exercises were the first joint military drills since South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol took office last month – and the first involving an aircraft carrier since November 2017.
Pyongyang has long protested against the joint exercises, branding them rehearsals for invasion.
Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, said Sunday’s missile launches were most likely a response to the US-South Korea manoeuvres.
“It seems that they fired eight missiles because the scale of the joint drills has expanded in their view,” he told AFP.
Last month, US President Joe Biden said he would deploy “strategic assets” to South Korea if necessary to defend itself from the North.
Pyongyang test-fired three missiles, including possibly its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17, just days after Biden left South Korea following his summit with Yoon.
Long-range and nuclear tests have been paused since Kim Jong-un met Donald Trump for high-profile negotiations that collapsed in 2019.
Monica has a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Journalism and Communications from Quinnipiac University. Monica has worked as a journalist for over 20 years covering all things entertainment. She has covered everything from San Diego Comic-Con, The SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and more. Monica has been published in Variety, Swagger Magazine, Emmy Magazine, CNN, AP, Hidden Remote, and more. For the past 10 years, she has added PR and marketing to her list of talents as the president of Prime Entertainment Publicity, LLC. Monica is ready for anything and is proudly obsessed with pop culture.