Pyongyang: North Korea has fired an unidentified projectile into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reports. The launch on Friday could indicate the North has conducted another missile test, and builds on growing tensions between the U.S. and the isolated nation in recent weeks.
South Korea’s military said it was analyzing the projectile, and could not confirm it was a ballistic missile.
The launch comes days after the U.S. and South Korea started the 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises, an annual joint military drill the two countries have held in some form for more than half a century. While the simulated war exercise is intended to help establish defense techniques for a potential attack, North Korea views the drills as confrontational.
As the exercises commenced on Monday, North Korea once again denounced U.S. President Donald Trump, who had promised “fire and fury” earlier this month if Pyongyang threatened the United States.
Trump’s aggressive remarks came in response to a report that Pyongyang recently managed to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, a crucial step in its efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead that could reach the United States.
North Korea has ramped up its nuclear and missile development programs in recent months.
Since February, Kim Jong Un has test-fired 18 missiles in 12 tests, compared to 24 missiles through all of last year. The leader has fired more tests than both his father and grandfather combined, CNN reported, and has finessed the technology of their weapons with each launch.
While Kim warned after Trump’s incendiary comments that North Korea may fire a missile at the U.S. territory of Guam, he appeared to back down from that threat last week. South Korean President Moon Jae-in emphasized that same day that the U.S. would not take any military action on the Korean peninsula without Seoul’s consent.
The South Korean military had warned late last month that another missile test from its northern neighbor may be imminent after satellite imagery showed a high level of activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site.