(ATTN: UPDATES with more background info in last 2 paras)
SEOUL, March 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile toward the Yellow Sea on Thursday, Seoul's military said, in the latest show of force ahead of a major South Korea-U.S. military exercise set to begin next week.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from the North's western port city of Nampo at 6:20 p.m. It did not elaborate further.
"While strengthening its monitoring and vigilance, our military is maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
The latest launch came as the allies are preparing to kick off the Freedom Shield exercise set to take place from Monday through March 23. The exercise is to proceed concurrently with the large-scale field training exercise, called the Warrior Shield.
Last month, Pyongyang warned Seoul and Washington would face "unprecedentedly" strong counteractions should they press ahead with this year's plans for combined drills, which it has decried as preparations for a war of aggression.
In apparent shows of force against possible provocations by North Korea, the U.S. has recently deployed high-profile military assets to the Korean Peninsula, including B-1B and B-52H strategic bombers as well as a nuclear-powered submarine.
The allies are also in talks for the U.S. to send a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to South Korea later this month, according to an informed source.
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