North Korea on Monday fired four banned ballistic missiles that flew about 620 miles, with three of them landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone, South Korean and Japanese officials said, in an apparent reaction to huge military drills by Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal.
It was not immediately clear the exact type of missile fired; Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various ranges in recent months, including a new intermediate-range missile in February. The ramped-up tests come as leader
Japanese Prime Minister
Seoul and Washington call their military drills on the Korean Peninsula defensive and routine. The two Koreas remain in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty.
The North hates the military drills, which run until late April and which analysts say force its impoverished military to respond with expensive deployments and drills. An unidentified spokesman for the North's General Staff of the Korean People's Army said last week that Pyongyang's reaction to the southern drills would be the toughest ever but didn't elaborate.
North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year. There have been widespread worries that the North will test an intercontinental ballistic missile that, when perfected, could in theory reach U.S. shores. Washington would consider such a capability a major threat.
The United States has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea and 50,000 in Japan, as a deterrent against a potential aggression from the North.
7:35 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional information about the ballistic missile launch.