South Korea says North Korea has fired several unidentified projectiles to the sea in what appears to be the latest weapons tests for the country that has been rapidly expanding its nuclear weapons and missile program.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a "projectile" had been fired on Saturday morning and that it was working to determine what kind of missile it was, according to the South's Yonhap News Agency.
The launches coincide with joint exercises between the USA and South Korean militaries, exercises that North Korea always strongly protests because it considers them preparation for an invasion.
The U.S. Pacific Command says its assessments indicate that the three missiles failed. It later amended its statement to say the missiles flew "approximately 250 kilometers in a northeastern direction".
Japanese authorities had determined they were ballistic missiles, Japan's NHK broadcaster and Kyodo News reported.
"The military is keeping a tight surveillance over the North to cope with further provocations", the ministry said.
North Korea's state media earlier Saturday said that leader Kim Jong Un inspected a special operation forces training of the country's army that simulated attacks on South Korean islands along the countries' western sea border in what appeared to be in response to the ongoing U.S.
China, South Korea vow to improve ties amid missile shield row
Ties between China and South Korea have been strained since Seoul agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-ballistic missile system.
The launch took place as the US and South Korea carry out 11 days of joint military exercises, known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), and follows weeks of angry rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang. The North routinely says it will never give up its weapons programmes, saying they are necessary to counter perceived USA hostility.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately comment about the Saturday launches.
Tillerson had said he hoped that the lack of missile launches or other "provocative acts" by Pyongyang could mean a path could be opening for dialogue "sometime in the near future".
This latest North Korean missile test would be the 12th ballistic missile test this year. "I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us", Trump said of Kim.
The North's move was immediately reported to South Korea President Moon Jae-in.
Kim reportedly told his troops that they "should think of mercilessly wiping out the enemy with arms only and occupying Seoul at one go and the southern half of Korea".
On Wednesday, Kim ordered the production of more rocket engines and missile warheads during a visit to a facility associated with North Korea's ballistic missile programme.
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