SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea early Friday launched a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters and flew warplanes near the border with South Korea, the South’s military said, further raising animosities triggered by the North’s recent barrage of weapons tests.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement the missile lifted off from the North’s capital region at 1:49 a.m. (12:49 p.m. EDT Thursday).
It said South Korea boosted its surveillance posture and maintains military readiness in close coordination with the United States.
The Japanese Defense Ministry and prime minister’s office also tweeted that North Korea launched a possible missile.
It’s the latest in a series of missile launches by North Korea in recent weeks. North Korea said Thursday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test-launches of long-range cruise missiles that he said successfully demonstrated his military’s expanding nuclear strike capabilities.
North Korea said Monday that its missile tests in the past two weeks were simulated nuclear attacks on key South Korean and U.S. targets. North Korea said the weapons tests were meant to issue a warning to Seoul and Washington for staging “dangerous” joint naval exercises involving a U.S. aircraft carrier.
The North Korean launches, part of its record-breaking run of weapons tests this year, were seen as an attempt by Kim to acquire a more intimidating arsenal to pressure its rivals to accept his country as a legitimate nuclear state and lift economic sanctions.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff also said in a statement that North Korea had flown warplanes near the rivals’ border late Thursday and early Friday, prompting South Korea to scramble fighter jets.
The North Korean planes flew as close as 7 miles north of the inter-Korean border. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said it responded by scrambling F-35 jets and other warplanes, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
There were no reports of clashes. A similar incident took place earlier this month, but it was still uncommon for North Korea to fly its warplanes near the border. Also, in the previous flight this month, North Korean warplanes flew much farther from the border than their flights between Thursday and Friday.
North Korea’s military also issued a statement early Friday accusing South Korea of carrying out artillery fire for about 10 hours near the border Thursday. It didn’t say whether the artillery fire was an exercise or firing at North Korea. The North Korean military said it took unspecified “strong military countermeasures” in response.
“The (North) Korean People’s Army sends a stern warning to the South Korean military inciting military tension in the front-line area with reckless action,” an unidentified spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The public affairs office at the South Korean Defense Ministry said it has no immediate comment.
After Wednesday’s cruise missile tests, Kim Jong Un praised the readiness of his nuclear combat forces, which he said were fully prepared for “actual war to bring enemies under their control at a blow” with various weapons systems that are “mobile, precise and powerful,” according to KCNA.
Kim said the tests send “another clear warning to enemies” and vowed to further expand the operational realm of his nuclear armed forces to “resolutely deter any crucial military crisis and war crisis at any time and completely take the initiative in it,” KCNA said.
Associated Press journalist Haruka Nuga in Tokyo contributed.