SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern sea early Wednesday in what appeared to be a statement of defiance as the United States deploys a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in decades.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that from 3:30 to 3:46 a.m. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from an area near capital Pyongyang that flew about 550 kilometers (341 miles) before landing in waters east of the Korean Peninsula.

The range roughly matched the distance between Pyongyang and the South Korean port city of Busan, where the USS Kentucky arrived Tuesday afternoon in the first visit by a U.S. nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea since the 1980s.

The launches marked the North’s first ballistic activity since July 12, when it flight-tested a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile that demonstrated potential range to reach deep into the U.S. mainland.

Tensions have rose in the region in recent months as the pace of both North Korean weapons tests and U.S.-South Korean joint military drills have increased in a cycle of tit-for-tat.

Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-fired around 100 missiles while attempting to demonstrate a dual ability to conduct nuclear attacks on both South Korea and the continental United States. The allies in response have stepped up their joint military training and agreed to increase the deployments of U.S. strategic assets like long-range bombers, air craft carriers and submarines to the region.

Periodic visits by U.S. nuclear ballistic missile-capable submarines to South Korea were one of several agreements reached by the two countries’ presidents in April in response to North Korea’s expanding nuclear threat. They also agreed to establish a bilateral Nuclear Consultative Group and expand military exercises

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