Seoul: North Korea fires a ballistic missile towards the sea
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, hours after North Korea threatened to launch a “fierce” military response to the U.S. strengthening its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.
South Korea’s military detected a launch from North Korea’s eastern coastal area at 10:48 a.m., the South Korean military said in a statement. South Korea is said to have stepped up its surveillance of North Korea, maintaining military readiness and close coordination with the United States.
He was from North Korea the first ballistic missile launch in eight days and the latest in a series of tests in recent months. North Korea has previously said some of the tests were simulations of nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets. Many experts say North Korea would eventually like to improve its nuclear capability in order to extract greater concessions from its rivals.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned that the recent agreement at the US-South Korea-Japan summit on the North would leave tensions on the Korean Peninsula “more unpredictable”.
Choe’s statement was North Korea’s first official response to US President Joe Biden’s statement trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Cambodia on Sunday. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence, while Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.
“The more the US is willing to ‘enhanced the protracted deterrence offer’ to its allies and the more it intensifies provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the more fierce (North Korea’s) military counteraction will be in direct proportion,” Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, real and imminent threat to the US and its vassal forces.”
Choe did not say what steps North Korea might take, but said “the US will be aware that they are taking a gamble, which they will certainly regret.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry responded later Thursday that the purpose of the trilateral summit was to coordinate a joint response to contain and deter North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. Spokesman Moon Hong-sik told reporters that security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo contributes to strengthening the US’s extended deterrence against its allies.
North Korea has consistently argued that its recent weapons testing activities are legitimate military countermeasures to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which it views as practice to launch an attack on the North. Washington and Seoul have said their exercises are defensive in nature.
In recent months, South Korean and US troops have expanded their regular drills and continued trilateral training with Japan in response to pressure from North Korea to increase its nuclear and missile arsenal. Those drills included a US aircraft carrier and US B-1B supersonic bombers for the first time since 2017. In recent years, annual military exercises between Seoul and Washington have been scaled back or canceled to shore up now-dormant diplomacy with North Korea and guard against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her statement on Thursday, Choe said that “the US and its followers have carried out large-scale war exercises for aggression one after another, but have failed to contain North Korea’s massive counter-action.”
There have been concerns that North Korea could carry out its first nuclear test in five years as its next major step towards strengthening its military capability against the United States and its allies.
US and South Korean officials say North Korea has completed preparations to conduct a nuclear test explosion at its remote test facility in the northeast. Some experts say the test, if carried out, should be aimed at developing nuclear warheads to be mounted on short-range missiles that can hit key targets in South Korea, such as US military bases. They say North Korea will eventually aim to use its increased arsenal as leverage to pressure the United States into making concessions in future negotiations and recognizing it as a nuclear state.
Thursday’s launch came a day after members The Group of 20 leading economies concluded the summit in Indonesia. The summit was largely overshadowed by other issues such as Russia’s war against Ukraine. But Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol used their bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise the issue of North Korea. The two held a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and discussed North Korea before arriving in Indonesia for the G-20 summit.
In their bilateral talks with Xi, Biden stressed that all members of the international community have an interest in encouraging North Korea to act responsibly, while Yoon urged China to play a more active, constructive role in addressing North Korea’s nuclear threats.
China, the North’s last major ally and biggest source of aid, is suspected of avoiding full implementation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea and sending secret aid to the North to help its impoverished neighbor survive and continue to serve as a bulwark against American influence on the Korean peninsula.
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