It's been confirmed that early Monday morning North Korea launched a pair of ballistic missiles which fell into the Sea of Japan. Crucially this marked the fourth major weapons launch in less than a month, after last week Pyongyang claimed to have conducted successful hypersonic missile tests.
The DPRK's state media described that the latest test was of short-range ballistic missiles of (SRBMs) of the KN24 type which "accurately" hit their designated targets in the Sea of Japan, at a distance of about 380km and reaching Mach 5.
A State Department statement issued soon after Monday's test said the United States "condemns the DPRK's ballistic missile launches," given the ratcheting frequency of the launches, in a signal Kim Jong Un is expanding his arsenal, while rebuffing the idea of any level of communication with Washington and the UN.
"These launches are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions and pose a threat to the DPRK's neighbors and the international community. We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue," the US statement said.
Monday's US statement emphasized a commitment to protect Japan as well:
The statement reiterated the U.S.'s "ironclad" commitment to help defend Japan and South Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed his government to do its utmost to gather information about the launch and ensure the safety of vessels and aircraft. Japan's Coast Guard issued a warning for vessels traveling around Japanese waters to watch out for falling objects, but no immediate damage was reported.
To kick off January, the North had said it conducted hypersonic glide vehicle tests on Jan.5 and Jan.11, which grabbed international headlines and got the Pentagon's attention.
North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea's military reported, the fourth test this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal https://t.co/yTjaMXSyPV pic.twitter.com/SAqYSC7UhG— Reuters (@Reuters) January 17, 2022
That last Tuesday test is believed to have involved a missile that reached Mach 10, alarming intelligence agencies in the West, and which even briefly resulted in an FAA order to ground commercial flights on the US West coast (for an estimated five to seven minutes).
Importantly, this latest test marks at least seven ballistic missile tests since September 2021, which the US says is a violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).