North Korea fires two ballistic missiles, USA and South Korea say

North Korea on Wednesday fired a ballistic missile into the sea off northern Japan, drawing an outraged response from Tokyo and ramping up already elevated tensions with the United States and South Korea.

Yes, U.S. Strategic command says that, in fact, two missiles were launched southwest of here, one of them exploding just after launch.

The North later said the launches were part of an exercise simulating preemptive strikes against South Korean ports and airfields used by the United States military.

The other exploded above the ground immediately after launch. It flew 998km before plunging into the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.

China said that nothing should be done to raise tensions on the Korean peninsula, but the U.S. says the missile shield is in direct response to the North Korean threat.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday condemned a North Korean test missile that landed 250km off Japan's coast as an "outrageous act" which threatened his country.

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Speaking after the U.N. Security Council met on North Korea's missile launch on Wednesday, which landed in Japanese controlled waters for the first time, Power said the anti-missile system was to defend against the threat by North Korea. North Korea is prohibited under United Nations Security Council resolutions from carrying out ballistic missile tests.

The council has repeatedly condemned North Korea's missile launches, but a US-drafted statement circulated last month following an apparent submarine-launched missile test has bogged down in discussion with China. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.

In 1998, North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan, of which a portion covering the tip fell in Japan's Pacific Ocean EEZ.

In June, North Korea sent a mid-range missile more than 1,400km into the atmosphere and the next month fired three ballistic missiles into the sea, saying it was a simulated strike on the South. Those missiles flew from 499 to 595km, not far enough to reach Japan's EEZ, where the country claims exclusive rights to fishing, drilling and other economic activities.

North Korea is expected to perform more weapons launches in coming weeks to protest annual U.S. After several failures, the North put its first satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket in December 2012, and conducted another successful satellite launch in February.

The government deems it necessary to be on constant alert, as North Korea has been repeatedly launching ballistic missiles from mobile launchpads, making it hard to detect signs of a possible impending launch. Analysts said the high-altitude flight meant North Korea had made progress in its push to be able to strike USA forces throughout the region.

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Analysts have weighed in and said that North Korea launched those missiles in July to demonstrate its capability to strike South Korea despite the latter's plan to deploy the THAAD.

Those tensions seem likely to remain high for the time being, as the USA prepares for a large-scale series of annual joint exercises with South Korea in August - drills that North Korea regards as a simulation of an invasion. Japan also said its self-defence force would remain on alert in case of further launches.

While the global community has been unanimous in the condemnation of the North's actions, top NK diplomat to the United States Han Son Ryol stated that the Communist regime's launch of the ballistic missiles is an act of self-defense.

The rollout of the new advanced Missile Segment Enhancement, which could double the range of the current PAC-3 missiles to around 30 km (19 miles), will likely start next year.

North Korea has carried out nine tests involving missile technology since the sanctions resolution was adopted in March.

The decision to deploy the THAAD in the south of the Korean Peninsula was made at the beginning of July. Analysts said the high-altitude flight meant North Korea had made progress in its push to be able to strike USA forces throughout the region.

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