December 4, 2022

Seoul, South Korea CNN —

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile at waters off its east coast on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The missile was launched at 3:31 p.m. local time from the Sukchon area in South Pyongan province, according to JCS. It added that the South Korean military has increased surveillance and is working closely with the United States.

Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile flew about 250 kilometers (about 155 miles) “at a very low altitude of about 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) or less” and landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of ​​Japan.

He added that authorities are still evaluating other details, such as the rocket’s orbit, and condemned the launch as a threat “to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community.”

This is the 32nd day this year that North Korea has conducted a missile test, according to a CNN tally. The tally includes both ballistic and cruise missiles.

In contrast, it conducted just four tests in 2020 and eight in 2021.

Wednesday’s launch comes during midterm elections in the United States, where votes are still being counted while Democrats and Republicans battle for control of Congress.

Also on Wednesday, the South Korean military said a missile fired last week was a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile — not a short-range ballistic missile as it claimed at the time.

On Nov. 2, South Korea said Pyongyang had fired as many as 23 missiles east and west of the Korean peninsula, including the now-identified SA-5, which landed near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the partition of Korea.

According to JCS, the missile landed in international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of South Korea’s Ulleung Island, about 26 kilometers south of the Northern Border Line — the de facto inter-Korean maritime border that North Korea does not recognize.

Debris from the missile was recovered from the sea and presented to the press on Wednesday at the Ministry of Defense in Seoul.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have steadily increased this year, with South Korea and the US responding to the Pyongyang missile tests by stepping up joint drills and military exercises, as well as their own missile tests.

South Korea is also currently conducting its own standalone drills in an annual exercise that focuses on defensive operations, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The exercises are expected to last until Thursday.

On Monday, North Korean state media released images allegedly showing last week’s missile launches, with a warning that so-called “reckless military hysteria” by the US and its allies is leading the peninsula toward an “unstable confrontation.”

Pyongyang’s missiles and air force exercises demonstrate its “will to counter the enemy’s combined air exercises,” the report said.

The US and international observers have been warning for months that North Korea appears to be preparing for an underground nuclear test, with satellite images showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the hermit nation’s first in nearly five years.