Two ballistic missiles were fired by North Korea into the Sea of Japan
Sylvie Claire / December 18, 2022
North Korea launched two ballistic missiles on Sunday, days after Pyongyang announced a successful test of a solid fuel engine with the aim of developing a new weapon system.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said they detected ballistic missiles fired from the Tongchang-ri area of North Pyongan Province in the direction of the East Sea, also called the Sea of Japan.
The missiles were detected between 11:13 a.m. and 12:05 p.m.
"Our military has strengthened surveillance and vigilance while closely cooperating with the United States and maintaining full readiness," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff added in a statement.
The missiles flew a distance of about 500 km, reaching a maximum altitude of about 550 km, according to the Japanese Defense Ministry.
This threatens the peace and security of our country, this region and the international community, and is absolutely unacceptable," said Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino.
The launch comes as Pyongyang announced Friday that it had tested a "high-thrust solid fuel engine," which its state-run media outlet KCNA called an important test "for the development of a new type of strategic weapons system."
Despite heavy international sanctions on its weapons programs, Pyongyang has built an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
All its ICBMs, however, are liquid-fueled. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un considers the development of solid fuel engines for more advanced missiles a strategic priority.
Kim Jong Un stated in 2022 that he wanted North Korea to have the most powerful nuclear force in the world, and declared his country's nuclear statehood "irreversible.
Among his goals unveiled in 2021 is the development of solid-fuel ICBMs that could be launched from land or from submarines.
The engine test announced Friday was a step toward achieving that goal, but experts do not know what stage of development North Korea is at regarding such missiles.
The isolated country's 2023 policy guidelines are due to be outlined in December at a key party meeting. KCNA reported that Kim Jong Un said 2023 would be a "historic year.