North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from its west coast toward the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, the South Korean military said, a day after South Korea and the United States began a large-scale military exercise.
The missiles fired from Jangyon in South Hwanghae Province between 7:41 a.m. and 7:51 a.m. flew about 620 kilometers, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The latest launches came after North Korea fired two cruise missiles from a submarine off the eastern coastal city of Sinpo on Sunday, according to the North's state-run media and the JCS.
Pyongyang, which has slammed U.S.-South Korea military drills as a "rehearsal" for war and invasion, and had warned against the latest exercise, also fired at least one short-range ballistic missile from the western city of Nampo toward the Yellow Sea on Thursday.
The 11-day Freedom Shield exercise, the first large-scale springtime exercise in five years, is aimed at strengthening response capabilities amid the North Korean nuclear and missile threats, according to the South Korean and U.S. militaries.
In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he had not received reports of any damage in Japan. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said separately that based on reports received so far the missiles had not landed within Japan's exclusive economic zone.
On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price defended the Freedom Shield exercise, saying it is "purely defensive in nature."
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said after the latest missile firings that the series of North Korean launches highlighted the "destabilizing impact" of its "unlawful" weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
"The U.S. commitments to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remain ironclad," the command said in a statement, referring to South Korea by its official name.
South Korea's JCS condemned North Korea's consecutive ballistic missile launches as "serious provocations" not only to the Korean Peninsula but also to the peace and stability of the international community, and urged Pyongyang to immediately halt its missile firings.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Sunday that a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea had adopted "important practical steps" for making more effective, powerful and offensive use of the country's war deterrent capabilities.
The meeting, guided by leader Kim Jong Un, decided on measures to address the present situation in which the provocations of the United States and South Korea are reaching the redline, KCNA said.