North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Sunday, DOD officials confirmed, marking the country’s first ballistic missile launches since March. Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeff Pool told Air Force Magazine the Sunday launches were SCUD missiles (or short-range ballistic missiles) fired northeast of the country. The missiles, which were fired from a site near the city of Wonsan, flew some 500 kilometers before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, reported Voice of America, which cited South Korean officials. “We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” Pool said, adding the North needs to “exercise restraint” and improve relations with its neighbors. The launches are the second missile firing in the last week, with the DPRK testing what it called “ultra precision tactical guided missiles” on June 27, which ROK officials believe were from KN-09 rocket launchers. The Sunday launches come only days prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s July 3 visit to South Korea, and marks the first time in nearly two decades a Chinese premier has visited the South, without visiting the North first—a widely perceived rebuke. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman declared Xi and South Korean President Park Geun-hye will bolster “exchanges and cooperation” in various areas and bring the “strategic cooperative partnership between China and the ROK to a new high.”
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.