US and South Korean navies are also conducting exercises off South Korea’s east coast in a show of force against North Korea.

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, a day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is to visit South Korea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that North Korean missiles took off at 10-minute intervals on Wednesday afternoon from South Korea’s capital region and flew toward waters off its east coast.

It said South Korea has increased surveillance and maintains military readiness in close coordination with the United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed officials to exercise “maximum caution” in the event of any emergency, gathering information and ensuring the safety of ships and aircraft. The Japan Coast Guard issued a warning to vessels in the area, but there were no reports of damage.

The launches followed North Korea’s missile tests earlier this week. Harris is due to arrive in South Korea on Thursday for talks with President Yoon Suk-yeol and other officials. She will also visit the tense border with North Korea in what US officials say is an effort to underscore the strength of the US-South Korea alliance and the US commitment to “stand by” South Korea in the face of any North Korean threats.

US and South Korean navies are also conducting exercises off South Korea’s east coast in a show of force against North Korea.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is participating in the four-day exercise that began Monday. These are the first allied exercises involving an American aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula since 2017.

Joint military exercises between South Korea and the US often draw a furious response from North Korea, which views them as a rehearsal for an invasion. North Korea’s short-range missile launch on Sunday was seen as a response to US-South Korean drills.

In 2022, North Korea set a record pace for missile tests, launching more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017. North Korea’s Sunan area, where Wednesday’s launches took place, has seen various missile tests this year, including two ICBMs.

Earlier this month, North Korea passed a new law allowing the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in some situations as it continues to escalate its nuclear doctrine. US and South Korean officials also said North Korea could soon conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

Earlier on Wednesday, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers that a nuclear test could take place between mid-October and early November.

According to some lawmakers who attended the meeting, the National Intelligence Service said that if the test were to take place, it would likely take place after China, North Korea’s last major ally, holds a key Communist Party congress on October 16, but before voting in the United States. midterm election on November 7.

North Korea’s frenzied weapons tests this year are seen as taking advantage of differences in the United Nations Security Council over Russia’s war against Ukraine and the rivalry between the United States and China. In May, China and Russia vetoed a US attempt to impose new sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile tests this year, which violate UN Security Council resolutions.

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.