North Korea launches missile at sea as US, South Korea conduct military drills
North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile towards the sea on Sunday, testing activities that appear to be in response to ongoing US-South Korean military exercises.
The North’s continued missile tests show the country is undeterred by US-South Korean drills it sees as a rehearsal for an invasion, though many experts suggest the tests could also be part of the North’s broader goal of expanding its arsenal of weapons and gaining international recognition. as a nuclear state and that international sanctions be lifted.
The missile, which was launched from the northwest region of Tongchangri, flew over the country and landed at sea off its east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese assessments, which said the missile traveled a distance of about 500 miles. This range suggests that the missile could target South Korea.
Top nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the United States strongly condemned the missile launch as a provocation threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. They agreed in a phone call to step up coordination to send a strong international response to the North’s testing activity, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
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South Korea’s military said its joint drills with the United States would continue and would be ready to respond to any provocation from the North. During Sunday’s exercises, the United States flew at least one long-range B-1B bomber for joint air training with South Korean fighter jets, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
North Korea is wary of deploying B-1Bs, which can carry a large payload of conventional weapons. The country had responded to the B-1B flights in February by launching the missiles at ranges that showed they could hit some military airbases in South Korea.
According to Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino, the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. He said no ships or aircraft were reported in the area and the missile likely had an irregular trajectory, a possible reference to North Korea’s highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Sunday’s launch posed no immediate threat to U.S. territory or its allies. However, he said the North’s recent launches highlighted “the destabilizing impact of its illegal weapons programs” and that the US security commitment to South Korea and Japan remained “ironclad.” “.
The launch was the North’s third round of weapons tests since the United States and South Korea began joint military exercises on Monday. The drills include computer simulations and field exercises and are expected to continue through Thursday. The joint exercises are the largest of their kind since 2018.
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North Korea has recently tested weapons, including its longer-range Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the American mainland. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the launch was carried out to “sow fear among enemies”, according to state media.
A launch on Thursday, the North’s first ICBM launch in a month, has drawn strong opposition from the South Korean, Japanese and US governments, as it was carried out just hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol was to flies to Tokyo for a summit with the Japanese Prime Minister. Fumio Kishida.
Yoon and Kishida agreed at the summit to resume defense conversations and further strengthen security cooperation with the United States to counter North Korea.
North Korea has missiles that put Japan within range. In October, North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile into northern Japan, forcing communities to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
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Kishida released a response to North Korea’s launch on Sunday that includes close collaboration with South Korea and the United States.
The North had also fired cruise missiles from a submarine the day before the start of the military exercises. According to North Korean state media, the missiles were a demonstration of its commitment to respond with “overwhelming and powerful” force to military exercises by the United States and South Korea.
The United States and South Korea plan to conduct more training involving a US aircraft carrier later this month after their current exercises end, suggesting that North Korea would likely respond to those exercises. by additional weapon tests.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.