North Korea launches 3 ballistic missiles towards the Sea of ​​Japan ahead of Biden visit

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North Korea fired three ballistic missiles into eastern waters on Thursday, South Korean defense officials say.

The reported provocation comes as President Biden prepares to visit South Korea and Japan late next week, where he will “discuss options to deepen our vital security relationships,” the White House said.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a brief statement that the missiles were flying toward North Korea’s eastern waters. It gave no further details.

People watch a TV with a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, May 7.

People watch a TV with a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday, May 7.
(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Japan has also detected the North Korean launches.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has ordered officials to do their utmost to analyze the launch, ensure the safety of aircraft and vessels in the area and take precautions and be ready for any emergencies, his office said.

Thursday’s launch marked North Korea’s 16th round of testing this year. They have recorded the north’s first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017, and there are also signs that the north is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in five years at a remote test site in the northeast, according to the Associated Press. .

North Korea has launched a test launch of missiles this year in an apparent effort to pressure its rivals amid stalled nuclear diplomacy.

its photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test fire from a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at an undisclosed location in North Korea on March 24.

its photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what it says is a test fire from a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at an undisclosed location in North Korea on March 24.
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

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Earlier Thursday, North Korean state media confirmed the country’s first COVID-19 infections when leader Kim Jong Un ordered nationwide lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus. Kim also ordered officials to bolster the country’s defense position to avoid a security vacuum.

But some experts say North Korea, despite increased anti-virus measures, is likely to continue its weapons tests to try to strengthen national unity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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