NORTH Korea fired two ballistic missiles just hours after the US sent a nuke-armed submarine to Kim Jong-un’s doorstep for the first time in 40 years.
EPAKim Jong-un fired his most powerful ballistic missile yet last week[/caption]
The USS Kentucky arriving at a naval base in Busan, South KoreaMC2 Samantha Oblander
South Korea said two missiles were fired from an area near North Korea’s capital Pyongyang from 3.30am to 3.46am – flying 341 miles before landing in the sea east of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan said no damage to ships or aircraft was reported.
The flight distance of the two missiles roughly matched the distance between Pyongyang and South Korean city of Busan – where a US nuclear-armed ballistic missile sub arrived on Tuesday.
Seoul confirmed the 18,750-tonne USS Kentucky entered a naval base in the port city – 320 kilometres southeast of Seoul.
The 170-metre long USS Kentucky is one of the largest nuke-capable ballistic missile submarines in the world – and can carry more than 20 Trident-II ballistic missiles.
South Korea blasted the Kim’s latest launches as a “grave” provocation that threatens peace and stability in the region.
The US military said it was aware of the missile launches and working closely with its allies and partners.
“The launches do not appear to pose an immediate threat to the US or to its allies, but the events highlight the destabilising impact of North Korea’s illicit weapons programme,” the US Indo-Pacific Command said.
The firing came as the US and South Korea held their first meeting of the Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) in Seoul – aimed at “bolstering nuclear deterrence against North Korea”.
And Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup said the deployment of the US sub in Busan demonstrates a united force against Kim.
“To North Korea, it shows the overwhelming capabilities and posture of the alliance, while it demonstrates the solid combined defence posture of South Korea and the United States to our people and the international community,” he said.
White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell told reporters: “As we speak, an American nuclear submarine is making port in Busan today.
“That’s the first visit of an American nuclear submarine in decades.”
The last time Washington deployed a nuclear-capable submarine to South Korea was in 1981.
The US has vowed to deploy more assets to South Korea to deter North Korea – such as aircraft carriers, submarines and long-range bombers.
On Sunday, Japan, South Korea and the US held joint navy war drills in a show of force against North Korea.
A South Korean naval officer said the exercise focused on detecting and tracking a computer-simulated ballistic target.