North Korea nuclear program
North Korea nuclear programiStock

North Korea is at it again, launching a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters early Friday morning (local time) and flying warplanes near the border with South Korea, The Associated Press reported.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement the missile lifted off from the North's capital region at 1:49 a.m. Friday local time (12:49 p.m. EDT Thursday). It said South Korea boosted its surveillance posture and maintains military readiness in close coordination with the United States.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile flew on an "irregular" trajectory - a possible reference to describe the North’s highly maneuverable KN-23 weapon modeled on Russia’s Iskander missile.

"Whatever the intentions are, North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches are absolutely impermissible and we cannot overlook its substantial advancement of missile technology," Hamada said, according to AP.

"North Korea´s series of actions pose threats to Japan, as well as the region and the international community, and are absolutely intolerable," he added.

Hamada said the missile traveled as far as 650 kilometers (403 miles) at the maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

It was the latest in a series of missile launches by North Korea in recent weeks. On Wednesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of two long-range strategic cruise missiles.

The test fire was conducted on Wednesday, and was aimed at "enhancing the combat efficiency and might" of cruise missiles deployed to the Korean People's Army "for the operation of tactical nukes," North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said.

On Sunday, it fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters.

Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino confirmed the launches, saying Pyongyang's testing activities are "absolutely unacceptable" as they threaten regional and international peace and security.

That launch came three days after it fired two ballistic missiles from the Samsok area in Pyongyang towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

Days earlier, North Korea fired an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile over Japan. Officials and analysts said that missile was a Hwasong-12 that travelled likely the longest horizontal distance of any North Korean test before.

North Korea has tested more than 30 ballistic weapons in 2022, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy.

Last month, North Korea passed a law officially enshrining its nuclear weapons policies. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the new legislation makes the country’s nuclear status "irreversible" and bars any negotiation on denuclearization.