The Pentagon on Monday called North Korea's launch of three short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday a “threat,” though the missiles did not put the U.S. in harm’s way.
“You're still firing missiles, so that's a threat,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.
U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) said the three missiles were launched from Kittaeryong on North Korea’s east coast over the weekend. Two missiles flew about 155 miles in a northeastern direction and a third blew up almost immediately.
The three missile launches didn't pose a threat to either North America or Guam, a U.S. island territory in the Pacific previously threatened by the North, PACOM spokesman Cmdr. David Benham said.
“If you’re asking if those three short-range missiles was less of a threat, the answer is no. It was a provocative action," Manning said.
The launch was the first such action in a month. The isolated country had previously fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, prompting condemnation around the world and new sanctions on the country.
Manning said the latest test did not demonstrate advancements in Pyongyang’s missile technology.
He added, however, “we have to make the assumption that they continue to learn throughout each one of these missile launches.”
South Korean officials said earlier Monday that they have seen signs that Pyongyang may be preparing for another nuclear weapons test, which would be its sixth.
Manning declined to say whether the Pentagon had also seen such indications, noting it was a matter of national intelligence.
“We watch North Korea very closely,” he said. “We'd be postured to respond.”