North Korea today fired four ballistic missiles in the general direction of Japan, three of them falling into the Sea of Japan inside Japan’s economic zone, and the fourth landing just outside that zone. Such practice launches are a common part of the annual first-quarter rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States, coinciding with US wargames in South Korea.
Such incidents always give way to a lot of hype, but particularly so in this case, with North Korean state media presenting it as “practice” for attacking US military bases inside Japan, suggesting North Korea could fire nuclear missiles at such bases if the US or South Korea “fires even a single flame.”
Whether or not that all is actually true is another matter, as North Korea’s ability to deliver nuclear warheads is still in serious doubt, and their ability to hit anything accurately with their ballistic missiles is also a question, with a lot of their test launches veering wildly off course.
From a rhetoric perspective, any missile test is arguably “practice” for striking enemy forces, though saying as much seems like it intends to raise the tensions between the two sides fast, something which seems likely to continue until North Korea inevitably has to redeploy its troops to plant crops in the next month.
Either way, US officials are responding by deploying pricey missile defense systems to South Korea. Such deployments have been criticized by China, but in practice the missile defense systems have proven of limited use, and of no real threat to large-scale strategic launches.