Pyongyang fired the first missiles on Wednesday, sending two into the water off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula five minutes apart, at 12:38 and 12:43 local time (23:38 and 23:43 ET), according to Japan’s Coast Guard .
Seoul followed that test less than three hours later and fired a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the sunken 3,700-ton submarine ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho, the South Korean Defense Ministry said. The missile hit its target exactly, the ministry said without giving further details.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in was present for the test, the ministry said.
South Korea’s weapons development, including its missile capabilities, has gained momentum as it seeks to become less dependent on the United States and more cautious about North Korea’s growing missile program.
In May, Moon and US President Joe Biden agreed to conclude a 40-year bilateral agreement limiting the scope and payload of South Korean missiles.
North Korea, in a post from its state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), called the end of these restrictions in the south a “deliberate and hostile act” by Washington and promised to “oppose the United States on the principle of strength for strength.”
With the launch, South Korea will be the seventh military in the world to be successfully tested and SLBM, the ministry said.
The other SLBM countries are also nuclear power, but South Korea does not have nuclear weapons.
Earlier, North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s joint chief of staff.
South Korea said the missiles covered a distance of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) while going as high as 60 kilometers (37 miles).
Japan’s defense ministry said the North Korean projectiles were believed to have fallen into water outside its exclusive economic zone.
Nevertheless, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the North Korean launches “outrageous” and added that they “threaten peace and security in our country and our region”.
While the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific command in Hawaii said North Korea’s test did not pose an “immediate threat” to the United States or its allies, it said in a statement that the launch “highlights the destabilizing effect of North Korea’s illegal weapons program.”
Wednesday’s missile test from both North and South Korea came just hours after Moon met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Seoul.
China exercises great influence over North Korea, and during the meeting, Moon said that Pyongyang has not responded to attempts by Seoul and Washington to engage in dialogue on the situation on the peninsula.
Pyongyang is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons under international law. Previous such tests have met with international opposition and sanctions from the UN Security Council.
Cruise missiles are powered by jet engines. Much like an airplane, they stay closer to the ground, making them harder to detect. Most cruise missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Ballistic missiles for comparison are operated only for a short part of their flight. They are fired on an arc trajectory that for longer range versions takes them outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and they can handle heavier payloads like nuclear warheads.
“Some analysts suggested that the parade was limited to room for negotiation because it did not include nuclear-capable weapons or political statements by Kim Jong Un,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “But North Korea’s subsequent missile test contradicts international hopes for dialogue.”
On the South Korean side, the SLBM launch was one of a series of military tests carried out by the country’s military on Wednesday.
It also fired a long-range air-to-surface missile, dropped it from an aircraft, deployed its wings and successfully flew at the target, the ministry said.
The weapon, which is still under development, is designed to be used by South Korea’s FK-21 fighters, stealth aircraft that are in the prototype stage.
A statement from the South Korean Defense Development Agency also said that the country had succeeded in developing a new ballistic missile that could carry a heavier and stronger warhead. The missile is designed to take out concrete structures and tunnels, the agency said.
“This high-strength ballistic missile will increase our military deterrence in peacetime and in crisis will be used as a nuclear arsenal to provide overwhelming response,” the Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said a hypersonic cruise missile designed to strike at enemy ships was also being developed. The statement called the new hypersonic much faster than missiles now in South Korea’s inventory and said it will soon be deployed with South Korean military units.
CNN’s Junko Ogura and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.