North Korea has launched four unidentified missiles which fell into the Sea of Japan, according to military forces in South Korea. 

According to military sources the missiles flew some 1,000 km (620 miles), and were launched from the area of Tongchang-ri – where a missile base is located – in a possible retaliation by North Korea to joint US and South Korean drills that began last week.

According to local news sites, an unnamed ministry official warned the projectiles could be intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan province for the testing of a new engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un at the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Pyongan province for the testing of a new engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile

A test launch of a ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in Korea in June last year

A test launch of a ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in Korea in June last year

The missiles were fired from North Pyongan province around 7:36 am South Korean time, the ministry said in a statement, adding they landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

And Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo lodged a ‘strong protest’ to North Korea after the reclusive state launched the four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

‘The latest launches of ballistic missiles clearly demonstrate evidence of a new threat from North Korea,’ Abe told reporters at his residence.  

Seoul and Washington launched annual joint military exercises last week that regularly infuriate Pyongyang, which condemns them as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

Visiting a North Korean army headquarters unit, leader Kim Jong-Un ordered the troops to ‘set up thorough countermeasures of a merciless strike against the enemy’s sudden air assault’, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said on the day the Foal Eagle exercises started.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile last month – its first such launch since October – which Seoul had said was aimed at drawing ‘global attention’ to its nuclear and missile programme and ‘testing the response from the new US administration’ of President Donald Trump.

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology. 

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology

But six sets of UN sanctions since Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

The South’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement that Monday’s launch was made in the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan province.

The area is the home of the North’s Seohae Satellite Station, where it has conducted prohibited long-range rocket launches in recent years.

While it was not immediately clear what was fired, Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various range in recent months. 

Last year the country conducted two nuclear tests and numerous missile launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the continental US. 

Leader Kim Jong Un is pushing for a nuclear and missile program that can deter what he calls U.S. and South Korean hostility toward the North.  

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