North Korea fires two ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, says the US and Japan – the first such test since Joe Biden became US president. UN Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles and if the launch is confirmed it would represent a new challenge to President Joe Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang.

Both Japan and South Korea have both condemned the test. It comes just days after North Korea reportedly fired two non-ballistic missiles into the Yellow Sea. Japan said no debris had fallen within its territorial waters. The US Pacific Command, which oversees military forces in the Asia-Pacific region, said on Thursday that the test highlighted “the threat that North Korea’s illicit weapons programme poses to its neighbours and the international community”. The Japanese government said one missile flew about 450 km (280 miles) and landed outside the Japanese exclusive economic zone, indicating it was a short-range missile. “The first launch in just less than a year represents a threat to peace and stability in Japan and the region and violates UN resolutions,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.

The launches coincided with the start of the Olympic torch relay in Japan on Thursday, beginning a four-month countdown to the summer Games in Tokyo which were delayed from 2020 due to the pandemic. Suga said he would ensure a safe and secure Olympics and “thoroughly discuss” North Korea issues including the launches with Biden during his visit to Washington next month.