North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles, according to South Korea's military, a week after making threats to take action over the planned deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in the South.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missiles were launched from the western city of Hwangu early Tuesday and fired between 500 and 600 kilometers toward the Sea of Japan. The statement said South Korea is closely monitoring the North's actions.
Last week, North Korea threatened to take "physical action" after the United States and South Korea announced they would deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense — THAAD — on the Korean peninsula to counter Pyongyang's ongoing nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
General Thomas Vandal, the chief of staff for U.S. Forces in Korea, said in making the formal announcement in Seoul this month, "North Korea's continued development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, in opposition to its commitments to the international community, require our alliance to ensure that we retain the ability to defend ourselves in the face of this threat."
Following North Korea's last nuclear test and launch of a long-range rocket using ballistic missile technology in February, Washington and Seoul began formal consultations to discuss the feasibility of deploying THAAD.
The missile defense system is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. It has so far proven effective against short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Last month, Pyongyang launched a partially successful test of an intermediate-range Musudan missile. Although the missile flew approximately 400 kilometers before falling into the sea, there were indications the North Korean military had developed, or is close to developing, the capability to reach U.S. military bases in Asia and the Pacific.