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North Korean missile launch triggers evacuation warnings in Japan

Seoul and Tokyo

North Korea fired at least three ballistic missiles on Thursday local time, according to the South Korean military, just a day after Kim Jong Un’s regime escalated tensions on the peninsula with a flurry of weapons tests.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Thursday they detected a suspected long-range missile fired from the North Korean capital Pyongyang, followed by two suspected short-range ballistic missiles fired from the Kaechon area in the province of South Pyongan.

In Japan, the first missile launch triggered evacuation warnings in the northern prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata, where Japan’s prime minister’s office originally said it was to fly over. The Japanese Ministry of Defense later assessed that the missile did not pass through Japan.

Thursday’s tests come just hours before US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is due to meet his South Korean counterpart Lee Jong-sup at the Pentagon.

They also follow a volley of missiles and artillery shells fired by North Korea on Wednesday after Pyongyang issued angry warnings of large-scale joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea. called “Vigilant Storm”. The maneuvers, which began Monday, involve 240 aircraft and “thousands of military personnel” from both countries, according to the US Department of Defense.

On Wednesday, North Korea launched at least 23 short-range missiles of various types east and west of the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

It was the highest number of short-range North Korean missiles fired in a single day, and included a ballistic missile that landed near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the division of Korea, according to the JCS.

This missile hit international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of Ulleung Island in South Korea, about 26 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) – the inter-Korean maritime border de facto that North Korea does not recognize.

Seoul responded on Wednesday by launching three air-to-surface missiles from F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, targeting an area the same distance north of the NLL.

North Korea is launching missiles with “unprecedented frequency”, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Wednesday.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has condemned North Korea’s unprecedented missile launch, telling CNN the UN will ‘pressure’ China and Russia to improve and reinforce these sanctions.

Thursday’s launches bring the number of North Korean missile tests to at least 30 so far this year, according to a CNN tally – although the number of individual missiles is much higher.

Weapons fired include both cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, with the latter having made up the vast majority of North Korean tests this year.

There are substantial differences between these two types of missiles.

A ballistic missile is launched using a rocket or rockets, then travels out of the Earth’s atmosphere, glides through space before re-entering, then descends powered solely by gravity to its target.

A cruise missile is powered by a jet engine, stays in the Earth’s atmosphere during flight, and is maneuverable with control surfaces similar to those of an airplane.

Cruise missiles have smaller payloads than ballistic missiles, so would require a smaller nuclear warhead than a missile designed to strike the continental United States, such as an intercontinental ballistic missile.

United Nations Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from testing ballistic missiles, but no such restrictions apply to cruise missile testing.

North Korea’s ability to deploy a nuclear warhead on any type of missile has not been proven.


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