North Korea fires short-range ballistic missile

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, the Seoul military said, the fourth show of force in a week while South Korea and the United States hold major military exercises.

Seoul and Washington have stepped up defense cooperation in the face of mounting military and nuclear threats from the North, which has conducted a series of increasingly provocative banned weapons tests in recent months.

South Korea and the United States are currently in the midst of 11 days of joint exercises known as the Freedom Shield, their largest in five years.

North Korea views all of these exercises as rehearsals for an invasion and has repeatedly warned it would take “overwhelming” measures.

“Our military detected a short-range ballistic missile fired at 11:05 a.m. (0205 GMT) from around the Tongchang-ri area of ​​North Pyongan Province toward the East Sea,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of ​​Japan.

The missile flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) and was analyzed by US and South Korean intelligence, the JCS said in a statement, calling the launch “a serious provocation” in violation of UN sanctions.

“Our military will maintain a solid readiness posture based on its ability to respond overwhelmingly to any provocation by North Korea while conducting intensive and thorough combined drills and exercises,” it added.

The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command also condemned the launch, saying it had highlighted “the destabilizing effect” of North Korea’s banned weapons programs.

Tokyo confirmed the launch, with its deputy defense minister Toshiro Ino telling reporters that it “made a vehement protest against (North Korea) through our embassy in Beijing and condemned it in the strongest terms.”

The missile may have been flying on an erratic trajectory and appeared to have fallen outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed government sources.

– “800,000 volunteers” –

The latest launch comes a day after North Korean state media reported that more than 800,000 young North Koreans had volunteered for the army to fight “US imperialists”.

The young volunteers were determined to “mercilessly wipe out the war-crazed” and joined the army to “defend the country,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

On Thursday, Pyongyang tested its largest and most powerful ICBM, the Hwasong-17 – its second ICBM test this year.

State media described the ICBM’s launch as a response to ongoing, “frantic” US-South Korea exercises.

Analysts previously said North Korea is likely to use the drills as an excuse to conduct more missile launches and maybe even a nuclear test.

On Saturday, KCNA said the allies’ joint drills are nearing “the unforgivable red line.”

The ICBM launch was followed by two short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday and two strategic cruise missiles launched from a submarine last Sunday.

Pyongyang’s recent wave of aggression has prompted Seoul and Tokyo to repair fences over historic disputes and try to strengthen security cooperation.

Just hours after the ICBM was launched on Thursday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Japan for the first full-scale summit of leaders in 12 years.

After their summit, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said both countries wanted stronger deterrent capabilities and that suspended security and ministerial talks would now resume. Yoon said the nations would also revive a military intelligence deal that Seoul paused as ties plummeted.

Last year, North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power, and leader Kim Jong Un recently called for an “exponential” increase in arms production, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Kim also earlier this month ordered the North Korean military to step up drills in preparation for a “real war.”


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