Hwasong-18 ICBM launched in North Korea
Hwasong-18 ICBM launched in North KoreaKCNA via REUTERS

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea early Wednesday, in what appeared to be a statement of defiance as the United States deploys a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades, The Associated Press reported.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that from 3:30 to 3:46 a.m. local time, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from an area near capital Pyongyang. The missiles flew about 550 kilometers before landing in waters east of the Korean Peninsula, the statement said.

The range roughly matched the distance between Pyongyang and the South Korean port city of Busan, where the USS Kentucky arrived Tuesday afternoon in the first visit by a US nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea since the 1980s, according to AP.

The launches are the latest provocations by North Korea, which has intensified its missile launches in the past year.

Last week, North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in a launch that was supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The North said the missile flew 1,001 kilometers for 4,491 seconds at a maximum altitude of 6,648 km before splashing into the East Sea.

The country tested dozens of ballistic weapons in 2022, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.

In May, North Korea failed in test firing what it described as a “space satellite”, which plunged into the sea after the botched launch.

North Korea had denounced a move by the United States to introduce a nuclear missile submarine to waters near the Korean peninsula, saying it creates a situation that brings a nuclear conflict closer to reality.