The missile tests were practice for an attack on the South, USA

The missile tests were practice for an attack on the South, USA

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea’s military said Monday that recently a barrage of missile tests were practices to “relentlessly” target key South Korean and US targets such as air bases and operational command systems with a variety of missiles likely to be nuclear.

The North’s announcement underscored leader Kim Jong Un’s determination not to back down in the face of his rivals’ efforts to expand their military exercises. But some experts say Kim also used their exercises as an excuse to do so modernized its nuclear arsenal and increase its leverage in future dealings with Washington and Seoul.

North Korea last week fired dozens of missiles and flew warplanes toward the sea – activation of evacuation warnings in some South Korean and Japanese areas — to protest massive U.S.-South Korean air force exercises that the North sees as a rehearsal for an invasion.

US and South Korean officials responded that they would further enhance their joint training and warned the North that the use of nuclear weapons would result in the overthrow of the Kim regime.

“The recent corresponding military operations by the Korean People’s Army are (North Korea’s) clear answer that the more persistently the enemy’s provocative military moves continue, the more thoroughly and ruthlessly the KPA will counter them,” the North’s General Staff said. the army said in a statement carried by state media.

The weapons tests were said to have included ballistic missiles loaded with dispersion warheads and subsurface infiltration warheads intended to launch attacks on enemy air bases; surface-to-air missiles designed to “destroy” enemy aircraft at various altitudes and distances; and strategic cruise missiles that fell in international waters about 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the South Korean coastal city of Ulsan.

The North’s military said it carried out an important test of a ballistic missile with a special functional warhead that was tasked with “paralyzing the operational command system of the enemy”. It is also said to have fired tactical ballistic missiles and other weapons from super large multiple rocket launchers.

It did not explicitly mention Thursday’s reported launch intercontinental ballistic missile aiming to hit the US mainland. Some experts say almost all of North Korea’s other missiles launched last week were likely short-range, many of them nuclear weapons. The missiles are said to put key military targets in South Korea, including US military bases there, within range.

“The General Staff of the KPA once again clarifies that it will continue to respond to all hostile war exercises against (North Korea) with continuous, decisive and overwhelming practical military measures,” the statement said.

Later on Monday, South Korea’s military disputed some of North Korea’s reports of its missile tests. Spokesman Kim Jun-rak said South Korea did not detect the North’s launch of cruise missiles and that it was also significant that North Korea did not mention what Seoul described as an abnormal ICBM flight.

This year’s “Vigilant Storm” air exercise between the United States and South Korea was the largest ever for the annual autumn maneuvers. 240 warplanes, including advanced F-35 fighter jets from both countries, took part in the exercises. The allies were originally supposed to hold the exercises for five days until Friday, but extended the exercise by another day in response to the North’s missile tests.

On Saturday, the last day of air force exercises, the United States flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over South Korea in a show of force against North Korea, the first such flyover since December 2017.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the B-1B’s participation in the joint exercises showed the allies’ readiness to respond strongly to North Korea’s provocations and the US’s commitment to defend its ally with the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear.

After their annual meeting on Thursday in Washington, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-Sup issued a joint statement strongly condemning the North’s recent launches and carrying Austin’s warning that any nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners would ” is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime.” South Korea’s military has previously warned the North that using nuclear weapons would lead it to a “path of self-destruction”.

Both defense chiefs also agreed on the need to improve joint exercises and training to strengthen readiness against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Even before the “Cautionary Storm” drills, North Korea test-launched what it called a series of missiles simulated nuclear attacks at American and South Korean targets in protest at other sets of military exercises by their rivals that involved a US aircraft for the first time in five years. In September, North Korea also passed a new law authorizing the preemptive use of its nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations.

South Korean and US officials have consistently maintained that their exercises are defensive in nature and that they have no intention of invading the North.

The US and South Korean militaries have been expanding their regular military exercises since the May inauguration of conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who has vowed to take a tougher stance on North Korean provocations. Some of the allied exercises have previously been scaled back or canceled to support the now stalled diplomacy over North Korea’s nuclear program or to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

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