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While North Korea has been conducting smaller missile tests for days in response to the U.S. and South Korea holding their largest joint military exercises in several years, Pyongyang announced Monday that it launched a ballistic missile over the weekend as part of a simulated nuclear attack on South Korea.
According to state media, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the drill, which was held to push back "aggression" from the country's enemies. The ballistic missile launch was symbolically held on the same day that U.S. B-1B strategic bombers joined the aerial military drills with Seoul.
North Korea said that the ballistic missile launch was "carried out under the tense situation in which a large-scale war drill is being frantically scaled up by the U.S.-South Korean allied forces to invade the DPRK and U.S. nuclear strategic assets are massively brought to South Korea."
Many in the U.S. see the missile launch as being in response to the U.S. bombers joining the joint military exercises. While some reports indicate that the ballistic missile included a mock nuclear warhead, North Korea has claimed that it had "no adverse effect on the security of the neighboring countries."
The missile reached an altitude of 50km (31 miles) and flew approximately 800km (497 miles), according to Japan's Defense Ministry. The mock warhead was launched from the North Pyongan province in North Korea and landed in the ocean between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, where it exploded roughly 800 meters above the water.
Meanwhile, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) have noted that it is remaining alert and is prepared for additional missile launches from Pyongyang, "while maintaining a full readiness posture through close cooperation with the U.S."
South Korea is not the only concerned country in the region, with Japan's Defense Ministry saying in a statement that North Korea's continued missile launches "threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community."
Pyongyang previously warned that it was ready to initiate the "toughest counteraction against the most vicious plots of the U.S. and its followers," in response to the 11-day Freedom Shield joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul. The exercises have been called the largest joint drills between the two countries in 5 years.