North Korea on Monday fired what Japan said appeared to be ballistic missiles, a week after a similar weapons test by Pyongyang. The North “appeared to have carried out joint firing drills involving various types of multiple rocket launchers”, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, expressing “strong regret” over Pyongyang’s actions. Initially they said three projectiles were involved, before changing the description to “multiple”. The devices were fired north-eastward into the sea from South Hamgyong province and flew 200 kilometres (124 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometres, the JCS said. That was slightly shorter but also slightly higher than last Monday’s firing. A Japanese defence ministry spokesman said North Korea had launched what appeared to be “ballistic missile(s)” – which it is banned from doing under UN Security Council resolutions. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament: “Repeated launches of items such as ballistic missiles have been a serious issue for the international community, including our country.” In an emergency meeting, South Korea’s security ministers said the North’s continued firing drills were “not helpful” to efforts for lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. The latest launch came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a personal letter to the South’s President Moon Jae-in , offering “comfort” for the rapid outbreak of the new coronavirus outbreak in the country. That message had followed an unprecedented statement by Kim’s younger sister Yo Jong, when she said Seoul’s condemnation of Pyongyang’s weapons test last week was a “truly senseless act” and “perfectly foolish”. The North carried out a series of weapons tests late last year, the last of them in November, which it often described as multiple launch rocket systems although others called them ballistic missiles. It also carried out static engine tests, most recently in December. North Korea fires two unidentified projectiles, resuming weapons demonstrations At a party meeting at the end of that month, Kim declared that Pyongyang no longer considered itself bound by its moratoriums on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, and threatened a demonstration of a “new strategic weapon” soon. The launches come as nuclear negotiations with the US are at a standstill and after the expiry of a unilateral deadline Pyongyang set for Washington to offer it fresh concessions on sanctions relief. The one-year anniversary of the collapsed Hanoi summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump also passed, earlier this year. Pyongyang is under multiple sets of sanctions over its weapons programmes from the United Nations Security Council, US, South Korea and others. Heightened tensions in 2017 were followed by two years of nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington, including three meetings between Kim and Trump, but little tangible progress was made.