North Korea said Monday it fired a "new-type ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile" over the Japanese archipelago as part of seven-round ballistic missile drills that ran from late September, according to state-run media.
The new missile fired last Tuesday was part of exercises by nuclear combat forces conducted as a "severe warning to the enemies," the Korean Central News Agency said, referring to recent military exercises between the United States and South Korea near the Korean Peninsula involving U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan.
North Korea's drills, which began Sept. 25, were staged by units responsible for operating tactical nuclear weapons, KCNA said, after Pyongyang again test-fired ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan early Sunday, the final day of the exercises.
The ruling Workers Party of Korea's Central Military Commission decided to "send (a) more powerful and clear warning to the enemies," firing the new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile into the Pacific Ocean after it flew some 4,500 kilometers from its launch site.
North Korea's recent flurry of missile tests immediately sparked condemnation from the United States and its regional allies Japan and South Korea.
On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters while in Kagoshima Prefecture that the repeated ballistic missile tests by the North "can never be tolerated," and that its "various provocative actions clearly violate U.N. Security Council resolutions."
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused dialogue with the nation's perceived enemies such as the United States, and feels no need to do so, given that the "dialogue and negotiation" is sought "while posing military threats to us," KCNA said.
Kim was quoted as saying by the news agency that "we should send a clearer signal to the enemies escalating the regional situation by involving the huge armed forces in any time with more powerful and resolute will and action."
Kim said Washington and Seoul have engaged in "irresponsible acts" that escalate regional tensions and would invite "greater reaction" from the North, according to KCNA.
He said the nuclear combat forces remain highly prepared at all times for a situation that might lead to a nuclear response.
In response to North Korea's statements, a State Department official said the United States rejects "the notion that our defensive actions to respond" to the North's threats "justifies their escalatory and unlawful behavior."
The official said the United States condemns the continued ballistic missile launches, and is "assessing the specific nature" of the most recent launches which "posed an unacceptable threat to the Japanese public."
The Sept. 25 short-range ballistic missile was launched under the simulation of "loading tactical nuclear weapons at a silo under a reservoir" in North Korea's northwest, according to KCNA.
Pyongyang said the Oct. 6 and 9 missile tests involved "super-large multiple rocket launchers."
In response to the U.S.-South Korea exercises, including the deployment of the Ronald Reagan, North Korea's air force conducted on Saturday a large-scale air attack drill with more than 150 fighter aircraft, the news agency said.
The North Korean ballistic missile that flew over the Japanese archipelago was the first in five years to do so, with the projectile traveling the longest distance ever for a missile launched by Pyongyang, according to the Japanese government.
Since late September, the North has been conducting missile tests at a pace never before seen.
The latest and seventh round of missile launches came after South Korea and the United States concluded a two-day naval exercise in the Sea of Japan on Saturday. It was also ahead of the 77th anniversary of the founding of the North's ruling Workers' Party on Monday.
In late September, Japan joined the first anti-submarine exercise in five years involving it, the United States and South Korea. The exercise was held in international waters outside the Sea of Japan.
From the start of this year, North Korea has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles, and there are concerns Pyongyang may be preparing to conduct what would be its seventh nuclear test and first since September 2017.
The following is a chronology of major events related to North Korean missile launches since late September.
Sept. 23, 2022 -- U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan enters port in Busan, South Korea.
Sept. 25 -- North Korea fires a short-range ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan, with the country's official media saying weeks later it was launched "under the simulation of loading tactical nuclear warheads at a silo under a reservoir."
Sept. 26 -- The United States, South Korea begin a four-day joint exercise in the Sea of Japan.
Sept. 28 -- North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles.
Sept. 30 -- The United States, South Korea, Japan hold anti-submarine drills in the Sea of Japan.
Oct. 1 -- North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles.
Oct. 4 -- Pyongyang launches a ballistic missile over the Japanese archipelago for the first time in five years, with the projectile traveling the longest distance ever for a missile fired by the country. North Korea's state-run media later says it was a "new-type ground-to-ground intermediate-range ballistic missile."
Oct. 6 -- North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles, with official media later saying they involved "super-large multiple rocket launchers."
Oct. 7-8 -- The United States, South Korea conduct joint naval exercise in the Sea of Japan.
Oct. 9 -- North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles in early hours, with state-run media later saying they again involved "super-large multiple rocket launchers."