North Korea fires 3 ballistic missiles towards the sea amid ‘severe’ Covid outbreak

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The missile launch was shown on North Korean TV on Thursday  (AP)
The missile launch was shown on North Korean TV on Thursday (AP)

North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, in the latest of a series of military demonstrations this year.

The military tests came just hours after Kim Jong Un ordered a full national lockdown amid a “severe” Covid outbreak in the capital Pyongyang.

South Korea‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the three missiles launched from the North‘s capital region on Thursday afternoon flew toward the waters off the country’s eastern coast.

Japan also detected the launches, prime minister Fumio Kishida confirmed.

He instructed officials to ensure safety of aircraft and vessels in the area and prepare for any possible emergencies, his office said.

The Japanese Coast Guard also urged boats in the area to watch out for falling objects and report them to the authorities.

The launches on Thursday were the first since South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office on Tuesday. He has previously called for boosting military deterrence, including by strengthening ties with the United States.

Yoon’s office said his national security adviser Kim Sung-han was planning to convene a meeting to discuss the launches.

It comes just nine days after North Korea launched a ballistic missile towards its eastern waters, as Kim Jong Un vowed to bolster his nuclear arsenal “at the fastest possible pace”.

His sister Kim Yo Jong, a senior official in Pyongyang’s government, warned last month that the North would “eliminate” South Korea if they launched a pre-emptive strike.

She said the South would face an “unimaginably terrible disaster” if it violated “an inch” of North Korean territory.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been reignited following a series of failed diplomatic efforts overseen by the Trump administration.

There are also fears the North is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in nearly five years at a remote testing ground in its northeast.

However, Pyongyang’s government also faces a public health crisis after acknowledging its first official Covid case on Wednesday.

The North Korean population is particularly vulnerable as the Government has declined to administer a Covid vaccine, rejecting supplies of the AstraZeneca jab from the international community as well as China’s Sinovac shots last year.

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