On March 6, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, three of which flew over 1,000 km and landed within 350 km of mainland Japan. According to Noh Jae-chon, a South Korean military spokesman, the missiles were launched from Tongchang-ri in northwest North Korea. Although the type of missile tested remains unknown, the range and altitude suggest that they were not ICBMs, which North Korea had threatened to test in Kim Jong-Un’s New Year’s Day speech. Hwang Kyo-ahn, the acting president of South Korea, responded by calling for an accelerated timeline in deploying the U.S. THAAD missile defense system, which is currently scheduled to be deployed within the year. Mr. Hwang additionally urged his government to seek “ways to effectively strengthen the United States’ extended deterrence” for South Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the tests represent “a new level of threat” and commented that “Japan will continue to coordinate closely with the United States, South Korea, and other countries to strongly urge North Korea to exercise restraint.” U.S. Strategic Command issued a statement saying that its “systems detected and tracked what [it] assess was a North Korean missile launch at 4:34 p.m. CST (7:34 a.m. Korean time)… the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.” The tests were conducted in the midst of annual U.S.-ROK military drills designed to prepare for possible North Korean aggression.