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North Korea test fires two ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan, South Korea says

N. Korea satellite could be major provocation
North Korean satellite launch could be major provocation if successful 03:49

Seoul — North Korea test fired two short-range missiles Thursday, South Korea's military said, the latest in a string of banned weapons tests carried out by Pyongyang so far this year. The missile launches drew a united rebuke from the U.S., South Korea and Japan, which jointly condemned them and said they showed the threat that North Korea's "unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to the region."  

The trilateral statement reflected the growing thaw between Japan and South Korea — a major foreign policy goal of President Joe Biden's administration as it strengthens alliances in a region tested by North Korea and expansionist China.

"The United States reaffirms unequivocally its ironclad security commitments to both Japan and the ROK," as South Korea is officially known, the statement said. It noted that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met Thursday in Tokyo with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts "to further strengthen trilateral cooperation, including through lock-step coordination in responding to the threats" from North Korea.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the country's military had detected "two short-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea into the East Sea" at about 7:30 p.m. local time (6:30 a.m. Eastern) Thursday. The East Sea is also known as the Sea of Japan.

Japan's military said the missiles appeared to have landed within the country's exclusive economic maritime zone, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida lodged a "severe" protest with North Korea over the launch, blasting it as an "outrageous act that escalates provocations," according to Japanese news agency Kyoto.

The missile tests came after the North's military vowed to respond to South Korea and the U.S. holding days of major live-fire military exercises, which wrapped up Thursday, near the heavily fortified border that separates North and South Korea.

U.S., South Korea begin live-fire military exercises near North Korean border 03:56

An article published by the North's state-run KCNA news agency quoted a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense as saying the country "strongly denounces the provocative and irresponsible moves of the puppet military authorities escalating the military tension in the region despite repeated warnings, and warns them solemnly."

"Our response to this is inevitable," the official was quoted as saying, without providing any details of the planned response.

North Korea has frequently reacted to U.S-South Korea war games with missile tests, and despite reports that the isolated country is already suffering through a domestic famine crisis, its dictator Kim Jong Un has continued channelling huge financial resources into weapons development. 

In April, Kim's military leaders claimed to have flight-tested a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time ever, which would represent a  significant breakthrough in North Korea's efforts to acquire a more powerful, harder-to-detect and shoot down missile capable of hitting the continental U.S.

United Nations North Korea
A TV screen shows an image of a failed North Korean rocket launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea, June 1, 2023. Ahn Young-joon/AP

In May, North Korea confirmed a failed attempt to launch a spy satellite into space, in another move that would be seen as a major provocation by its neighbors and the United States. The botched attempt triggered emergency alerts in Seoul and on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. 

North Korea said then that efforts were already underway to try the launch again.

CBS News' Tucker Reals and Jen Kwon contributed to this report.

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