(SEOUL) North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of ​​Japan on Monday, the latest in a series of weapons tests in recent weeks, according to the South Korean military.

“Our armed forces detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Junghwa area in North Hwanghae Province (South Central) at 7:47 a.m. (6:47 p.m. Eastern Time) heading towards the Sea of East,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, using the Korean name for the Sea of ​​Japan.

“Our military has heightened surveillance and vigilance against new launches, while maintaining a full readiness posture through close cooperation between South Korea and the United States,” he added.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense also confirmed the launch. The two missiles would have flown on an irregular trajectory before falling outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, ministry officials quoted Japanese media as saying.

The launches come as Seoul and Washington conduct a joint amphibious landing exercise, just days after concluding their largest joint military drills in five years on Thursday.

North Korean state media claimed on Friday that joint training between Seoul and Washington was preparation for the “occupation” of North Korea, which requires “stronger deterrents” in response, including “a more developed, more versatile and more offensive nuclear attack capability”.

The North Korean military conducted its own military exercises, including testing what it billed as a new “underwater nuclear attack drone”, and launching its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the year.

Analysts had previously estimated that North Korea would probably use these exercises as a pretext to carry out new missile launches, or even a nuclear test.

North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported on Friday that the “underwater nuclear attack drone” drill, personally supervised by leader Kim Jong-un, was conducted “for the purpose of warning the enemy against a real nuclear crisis”.

The weapon’s purpose is to “stealth into operational waters and produce a large-scale radioactive tsunami…to destroy enemy naval attack groups and key operational ports,” KCNA added. .

The agency also claimed that Pyongyang on Wednesday fired strategic cruise missiles “equipped with a test warhead simulating a nuclear warhead.”

Analysts have cast doubt on North Korea’s claims, adding, however, that it is no longer just stockpiling nuclear warheads, but is trying to perfect and diversify means of launch.

After a record year of weapons testing and growing nuclear threats from Pyongyang in 2022, Seoul and Washington have stepped up security cooperation.

North Korean military provocations have also pushed Seoul and Tokyo to move beyond their historic differences and try to strengthen their defense cooperation.

Last year, North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power, and leader Kim Jong-un recently called for an “exponential” increase in the production of weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons.

In early March, he also ordered his army to intensify military maneuvers for “real war”.