SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast, South Korea's military said on Monday, as the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un warned of turning the Pacific into a "firing range," heightening tensions in the region.
Japan's Coast Guard said North Korea launched three projectiles that could be ballistic missiles shortly after 2200 GMT, all of which fell within minutes. All three landed outside Japan's EEZ, public broadcaster NHK said.
The launch comes just two days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea off Japan's west coast, in what it called a "sudden launching drill".
North Korean leader Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, issued a statement and warned against increased presence of U.S. strategic assets on the Korean peninsula after the United States held joint air exercises bilaterally with South Korea and Japan on Sunday in response to the North's ICBM launch.
"We are carefully examining the influence it would exert on the security of our state," she said in the statement. "The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces' action character."
She also refuted experts' assessment of its missile capabilities after some pointed out that it took over nine hours for the "sudden" missile launch to take place following an order from leader Kim, and said South Korea didn't even fly reconnaissance planes at the time of its launch.
"They will defend the fact that their scout planes didn't fly at the time by saying that they were monitoring with so-called special means and methods under 'close cooperation between intelligence authorities of South Korea and the U.S.," she said.
Kim Yo Jong added the North has "satisfactory" missile technology and capability, and "now will focus on increasing the quantity of their force."
Monday's missile launch is the North's third major weapons test this year after Pyongyang threatened an "unprecedentedly persistent, strong" response as South Korea and the United States geared up for their annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the growing nuclear and missile threat that the North poses.
(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft)