The South Korean military declared that North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the ocean near its eastern coast in response to the US-South Korea joint military drills.

According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC), North Korea launched missiles from Hwanghae province at around 8 am on Monday (23:00 GMT Sunday).

In 2022, North Korea saw an unprecedented rise in weapons testing, with more than 70 missiles being launched. In addition, North Korea’s provocations over the past few months have been a cause for concern. For example, in November 2022, North Korea launched a missile test near its eastern coast, despite warnings from South Korea. These provocations are seen as a direct challenge to the improving alliance between South Korea and the United States.

The recent provocations have also been met with strong condemnation from South Korea and the United States. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has warned that any further provocations would be met with an “all-out response” from his country. Similarly, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that any further provocations will be met with “consequences.” In addition, the US has also increased its regional presence to deter further aggression from North Korea.

The Joint Security Council disapproved of the launches, citing them as a breach of UN Security Council resolutions, and declared that their military exercises would be carried out as planned.

“We will keep a close eye on North Korea’s various activities and maintain firm readiness posture based on the capability to overwhelmingly respond to any provocations,” the JCS said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Japan declared that the missiles were thought to have descended outside their exclusive economic area.

Japan has been monitoring North Korea’s missile launches and other activities for years. In March 2023, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on its website detailing the country’s stance on Japan-North Korea relations. The statement highlighted Japan’s commitment to monitoring and surveillance activities to protect against illicit maritime activities.

In response to North Korea’s missile launches, Japan has taken steps to ensure its safety and security. For example, in October 2022, Japanese officials issued an alert after North Korea fired a ballistic missile without warning over the country. Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada also stated that the missile likely landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. As for Secretary Antony J. Blinken, he also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the security of its allies in East Asia, including Japan. These measures demonstrate that Japan is taking proactive steps to prevent an all-out confrontation with North Korea.

Japan lodged a “vigorous protest” with North Korea, expressing its concern that the missile launches from the neighboring country endanger the security and tranquillity of Japan, the region, and the global community.

North Korea has had seven missile launches, which has caused a rise in military tension in the area due to the reciprocal series of missile tests and joint US-South Korea exercises that have taken place in recent months.

Last week, the allies conducted their most crucial springtime exercises in a long while. However, North Korea is anticipated to raise its testing efforts further as the United States deploys an aircraft carrier group to the peninsula this week for a new set of joint exercises.

“It appears North Korea might be practicing, or signaling that it’s practicing, the use of nuclear strikes, both preemptive and retaliatory, in a range of scenarios that are authorized in its nuclear doctrine,” said Duyeon Kim, a senior analyst at the Center for a New American Security.

“The problem is that continued testing helps Pyongyang perfect its technology, strengthen its nuclear weapons capability that threatens South Korea and Japan, increase the likelihood of miscalculation that could lead to inadvertent conflict, and accumulate political leverage ahead of future diplomatic talks with Washington.”

On Monday, the South Korean defense ministry declared that the US aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, and its accompanying strike group would be performing joint maritime drills with South Korean forces in the waters off the peninsula’s south coast. Following this, the Nimitz will be welcomed into a South Korean naval base in Busan, a port city located on the southeast end of the peninsula.

The ministry mentioned that the ship’s upcoming voyage is intended to deter North Korea, the first since the USS Ronald Reagan’s visit in September. In addition, this visit is part of a broader effort to increase US “strategic assets” in the area.

The North Korean government has stated that the military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea prepare for an attack. However, Washington and Seoul have countered that the exercises are for defensive purposes.

Eleven launches of over 20 ballistic and cruise missiles have occurred in North Korea this year. However, only recently, a three-day drill was conducted to simulate a nuclear attack on South Korean targets, as reported by KCNA.

North Korea is reportedly conducting trials that include an alleged nuclear-capable drone that is said to be able to generate a powerful “radioactive tsunami” that could wipe out naval ships and harbors, according to the state media.