North Korea has fired several cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea, South Korea’s military said on Saturday. The launches were detected around 4 a.m. local time, and the U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities were analyzing them.
This is the second missile test by North Korea this week, after it fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Wednesday. The ballistic missiles flew about 550 kilometers (341 miles) before landing in the water.
US and South Korea enhance defense cooperation
The missile tests come as the U.S. and South Korea are conducting joint military exercises and strengthening their defense cooperation in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
The allies have also agreed to increase the regional deployment of U.S. strategic assets, such as nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and aircraft carriers. On Tuesday, the USS Kentucky, a nuclear-powered submarine, made a port call in Busan, South Korea, for the first time in decades.
North Korea warns of nuclear war
North Korea has condemned the U.S. and South Korean moves as hostile and provocative, and warned that they could trigger a nuclear war.
North Korea’s defense minister issued a veiled threat on Thursday, suggesting that the docking of the USS Kentucky in South Korea could be grounds for a nuclear attack by the North.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry responded on Friday, saying that any nuclear attack by the North would face an “immediate, overwhelming and decisive response” that would bring an end to the North Korean regime.
Fate of US soldier unknown
The missile tests also come as North Korea remains silent about the fate of a U.S. soldier who crossed into the North from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Tuesday.
The soldier, identified as Private Second Class Travis King, was due to return to the U.S. to face military discipline after serving jail time in South Korea for assault.
The U.S. has said it is “very concerned” about how King would be treated in North Korea, and that it has not received any response from Pyongyang about his whereabouts or condition.