North Korea fires multiple projectiles after ‘momentous’ retaliation threat

North Korea fired three unidentified projectiles off its east coast on Monday, South Korea’s military said, two days after the North threatened to take “momentous” action in protest at outside condemnation over its earlier live-fire exercises.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement three launches took place from an eastern coastal town in the North’s South Hamgyong province. The projectiles flew for 200 kilometres (124 miles) at a height of 50 (31 miles) km.

“The military is monitoring for additional launches and maintaining readiness,” it added.

A spokesman at Japan’s defence ministry said North Korea launched what appeared to be “ballistic missile(s)”, adding there had been no indication of anything coming down in Tokyo’s territory or exclusive economic zone.

“These actions threaten the peace and security of our nation and region,” said Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary and top government spokesman.

“Considering the repeated launches of ballistic missiles up to now, it is a serious issue affecting the international community, including Japan.”

In the past 10 days, North Korea has said leader Kim Jong Un supervised two rounds of live-fire artillery exercises in its first weapons tests since late November. Kim had entered the new year with a promise to bolster his nuclear deterrent and not to be bound by a major weapons test moratorium amid diplomatic deadlock aimed at convincing Kim to abandon his nuclear programme.

South Korea and some European countries protested against the second North Korea drills, which they believe involved ballistic missile launches in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korea has lashed out at the outside criticism, saying it has the right to conduct military drills in the face of United States and South Korean forces on its doorstep.