North Korea is reported to have fired at least two ballistic missiles just hours after hitting out a US "provocation" for new sanctions and warning of a strong reaction.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Friday it had detected what it presumed were two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) launched eastward from North Pyongan Province on the west coast of North Korea, near the border with China.
Japan's coast guard also said it had detected "the launch from North Korea of what appears to be a ballistic missile or missiles at 14:55 (0555 GMT)."
The test would be the third since the start of the New Year.
Early on Friday, the North defended its latest missile tests as a legitimate right to self-defense, warning of a strong response if Washington pressed ahead with its provocative move to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang.
North Korea's foreign ministry spokesperson said the country’s recent development of what US claims to be a "new-type weapon" was just part of its efforts to modernize its national defense capability and did not target any specific country or harm the security of neighboring countries.
A statement carried by state news agency KCNA underlined that the United States was intentionally escalating the situation by imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang.
"The US accusation of the DPRK's legitimate exercise of the right to self-defense is an evident provocation and a gangster-like logic," it said, using the initials of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The spokesperson warned of an unspecified "stronger and certain reaction" if the United States adopts a confrontational stance.
The administration of US President Joe Biden on Wednesday imposed its first sanctions following a series of North Korean missile launches, including two since last week.
Washington also called on the United Nations Security Council to take action against several North Korean individuals and entities accused of violating resolutions that ban North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons development.
The North Korean foreign ministry said while Washington may talk of diplomacy and dialog, its actions show "it is still engrossed in its policy for isolating and stifling" North Korea.
"The US is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK's just activity to the UN Security Council," the statement said.
North Korea has confirmed that the projectile test-fired on Tuesday was a hypersonic missile and that the launch was directly observed by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.
KCNA reported on Wednesday that the second test of a "hypersonic missile" in less than a week intended to underscore Kim’s New Year pledge to bolster the military with cutting-edge technology at a time of tensions with the United States.
Pyongyang insists that such tests are in self-defense in the face of Washington's hostile policies, sanctions and joint military drills with South Korea.
South Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile of its own for the first time in September last year.