The single-stage, Rodong-class, mid-range missiles were fired from Hwangju province, North Korea, and flew about 620 miles before falling into waters off the country’s east coast, within Japan’s zone of defense. The missiles were launched “without giving any prior navigational warning,” a statement by the South Korean military said.
A senior U.S. official called the launches “reckless” and a threat to civil aviation and local maritime commerce, and a U.S. statement strongly condemned the launches, which came as China, North Korea’s only global ally, hosted the G20 summit.
“This is Pyongyang’s way of reminding everyone of their existence at a moment when all the parties are together, in a typically defiant, North Korean way,” John Delury of South Korea’s Yonsei University told CNN.
The launches came after past failures and a test, two weeks ago, of a submarine-launched missile which also entered Japan’s defense zone. Tomomi Inada, Japan’s defense minister, commented, “Looking at the fact that the three missiles have landed on almost the same spot at almost the same time, I think their missile technology has substantially improved.”
The launches occurred after Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the summit in Hangzhou, told South Korean President Park Geyun-hye of his opposition to the THAAD missile defense shield. The program, being installed in South Korea, is a U.S. anti-ballistic missile system designed to shoot down North Korean missiles. China views it as a shift in the regional balance of power toward the United States.