North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles Saturday morning from Kangwon province, the US Pacific Command said.
Though North Korea says it now has the ability to send missiles to the US mainland, US defense officials said they determined these missiles did not pose a threat to North America or Guam.
Cmdr. David Benham, spokesman for US Pacific Command, said the first and third missiles “failed in flight” and the second missile launch “appears to have blown up almost immediately.”
The missile tests occurred as the United States and South Korea conducted the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises.
South Korea and the United States call the exercises defensive in nature, but North Korea sees them as provocative and hostile, perhaps even preparation for an invasion.
“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted,” North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said.
Trump’s harsh words
North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests this year, increasing tensions with the United States, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea has fired more than 20 missiles since February, further perfecting its technology with each launch. In July, it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, which North Korea claims could reach “anywhere in the world.”
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary ultimatum to North Korea, warning Pyongyang not to make any more threats against the United States or it will “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quickly tried to allay fears of a military confrontation, saying there was no sign that the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should “sleep well at night.”
In a conciliatory move before that, Tillerson said the United States was willing to sit down for talks with North Korea, but only if it relinquishes its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
A statement issued by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff after the latest launch said “the projectiles” were launched around 6:49 a.m. Saturday and flew about 250 kilometers (155 miles) into the Sea of Japan, or East Sea.
South Korea planned to convene its national security council several hours after the missile launches, the presidential office said in a statement.
“Our military is closely monitoring for North Korean additional provocation and strengthened surveillance and security postures and maintaining readiness postures,” the South Korean release said.
Guam, Japan react
The missile launches pose “no immediate threat” to Guam, Guam’s office of the governor said in a statement.
“Although the launches were no threat to Guam, it reminds us that we cannot be complacent,” said George Charfauros, the homeland security adviser on the US territory. “We place confidence in our US Department of Defense capabilities and continue open communications with our federal and military partners.”
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters Saturday morning the launches would not directly affect Japan’s security, and that no missiles have reached Japan’s territorial water and exclusive economic zone, according to the Prime Minister’s office.
The prime minister directed his staff to remain on high alert, Suga said.