North Korea continues flurry of missile launches toward sea
A notice on disruption to train services due to a missile launch by North Korea is displayed at a subway station in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. North Korea on Tuesday fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, forcing Japan to issue evacuation notices and suspend trains during the flight of the nuclear-capable weapon that could reach the U.S. territory of Guam and possibly beyond. (Kyodo News via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched a ballistic missile Thursday toward its eastern waters, South Korea’s military said.

The launch was the North’s sixth round of weapons firings in less than two weeks, which has prompted condemnation from the United States and other countries.

The country has fired nearly 40 ballistic missiles over about 20 different launch events this year, exploiting Russia’s war on Ukraine and the resulting deep divide in the U.N. Security Council to accelerate its arms development without risking further sanctions.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the most recent launch was made Thursday morning but gave no further details like how far the weapon flew.

The launch came two days after North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan for the first time in five years. Foreign experts said the missile fired Tuesday involved a weapon capable of reaching the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.

The North’s flurry of weapons tests in recent days came after the United States staged military drills with South Korea and Japan in the waters off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast.

The drills on Tuesday were conducted to show a joint ability to deter a North Korean attack on the South. The allies conducted training bombing runs by F-15 strike jets using precision munitions and launched two missiles each that are part of the Army Tactical Missile System.

North Korea views such drills as an invasion rehearsal. The country launched its own missile hours before the drills in its most provocative demonstration since 2017. The nuclear-capable ballistic missile that was launched has a range capable of striking Guam, which is home to one of the largest military facilities maintained by the U.S. in Asia. North Korea in 2017 also tested missiles capable of hitting the continental United States.

After Tuesday’s launch, the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that it strongly condemns “the Korean People’s Army on South Korea-U.S. joint drills escalating the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

North Korea has carried out the record number of missile tests this year amid long-stalled diplomacy with the United States. Observers say North Korea aims to expand its nuclear arsenal to boost its leverage in future negotiations with the United States.