SEOUL -- North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into the sea on Thursday morning, South Korea's military said, while Japan's government said it suspected the weapons were ballistic missiles.
Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that intelligence authorities in South Korea and the U.S. are thoroughly analyzing the projectiles, fired from northeastern North Korea into the Sea of Japan. The Joint Chiefs had yet to determine whether they were indeed ballistic missiles -- weapons that are initially rocket-propelled and guided but free-fall toward their targets -- which Pyongyang is prohibited from firing under United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The presidential Blue house held an emergency National Security Council meeting on Thursday morning and expressed concern, but stopped short of confirming the nature of the missiles.
"Our government expressed deep worries over North Korea's firing of projectiles suspected of being ballistic missiles," South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong told reporters after a meeting with his visiting Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. "We are making various efforts toward the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
Lavrov joined Chung in condemning the move but widened the scope to include other regional players. "All related countries should stop competition for arms as well as all kinds of military actions," Lavrov said.
If the North indeed tested ballistic missiles, they would be the first since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January. The Kim Jong Un regime reportedly fired short-range missiles last weekend -- a provocation the Biden administration downplayed as it seeks dialogue with Pyongyang.
A Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday's projectiles did not fall within Japan's territory or exclusive economic zone.
The Joint Chiefs said that South Korean forces had raised their level of monitoring and defense, while cooperating with the U.S. closely. "We are prepared for anything," they said in a text message to reporters.
Pyongyang's action comes a week after the U.S. secretaries of state and defense met with their South Korean counterparts in Seoul. In a news conference after the meeting, Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanded that China use its influence in North Korea to push the country toward denuclearization.
Experts say North Korea is testing the Biden administration, gauging how much Washington will tolerate.
"With its return to testing different types of missiles, Pyongyang is flirting with the limits of what it can get away with under U.N. Security Council resolutions," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. "It is also challenging the 2018 Inter-Korean Comprehensive Military Agreement, which it has threatened to scrap."