SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward the sea on Sunday, March 19, 2023, its neighbors said, ramping up testing activities in response to US-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal.

The North’s continuation of missile tests showed its determination not to back down, despite the US-South Korea drills, which are the biggest of their kind in years. But many experts say the tests were also part of a bigger objective to expand its weapons arsenal, win international recognition as a nuclear state and get international sanctions lifted.

The missile launched from the North’s northwestern Tongchangri area flew across the country before it landed in the waters off its east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese assessments.

They said the missile traveled a distance of about 800 kilometers, a range that suggests the weapon could target South Korea.

South Korea’s military said the North’s repeated ballistic missile tests are “a grave provocation” that undermines peace on the Korean Peninsula.

It said it will proceed with planned joint drills with the United States and maintain a readiness to “overwhelmingly” respond to any provocation by North Korea. / AP