Speed Reads

all eyes on north korea

North Korea says its latest missile launch was a practice strike against U.S. military bases in Japan

North Korea launched four missiles on Monday as part of a practice strike against U.S. military bases in Japan, the country's state media said Tuesday.

The Korean Central News Agency claimed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch, "feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets." Should the U.S. or South Korea fire "even a single flame inside North Korean territory," the agency said, "we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile." Three of the four missiles flew about 600 miles, landing in the sea within Japan's exclusive economic zone. There are roughly 54,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan, stationed at multiple bases.

North Korea did not reveal the type of missiles it fired, but analysts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California looked closely at images released by state media, and determined they were extended-range Scuds, able to fly more than 600 miles. These missiles have previously been launched, and this was a way for North Korea to see how fast the missiles could be fired. "They want to know if they can get these missiles out into the field rapidly and deploy them all at once," Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, told The Washington Post. "They are practicing launching a nuclear-armed missile and hitting targets in Japan as if this was a real war." On Monday, the U.S. sent to South Korea the first few elements of the THAAD anti-missile system, meant to thwart missiles fired by North Korea.