North Korea launches ballistic missile after US-South Korea military drills

Seoul, South Korea –

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern seaboard on Friday, its latest weapons display coming days after US and South Korean warplanes conducts joint drills that North Korea considers an invasion rehearsal.

North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year, what some experts call an attempt to bolster weapons capabilities and pressure rivals to make concessions, such as expanding sanctions relief in future negotiations. North Korea also recently carried out the major tests needed to obtain its first spy satellite and a more maneuverable intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

The South Korean military detected two missile launches from the North Korean capital area around 4:32 p.m. Friday. Japan said it also confirmed at least one North Korean missile launch.

It is not clear exactly what type of missile North Korea fired. The South Korean military said the missiles traveled about 250 kilometers (155 miles) and 350 kilometers (220 miles) respectively before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Japan’s Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said a missile Japan detected flew as far as 300 kilometers (180 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles). He said the missile may have exhibited an “unusual” trajectory, possibly related to North Korea’s highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23, simulated according to the Russian Iskander missile.

South Korea’s military called the launch a “serious provocation” that harms international peace. It said South Korea would maintain a firm readiness and closely monitor North Korea’s moves in close coordination with the United States. Ino also accused North Korea of ​​significantly increasing tensions.

The launches could be a response to a US-South Korean aerial military exercise near the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, as North Korea said its intense testing activities over the past months to warn of previous joint exercises by adversaries. Washington and Seoul say their drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea calls it a drill for an invasion.

The latest U.S.-South Korean drills drew nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and F-22 stealth fighters and other advanced South Korean fighters. Country. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the training is part of a bilateral agreement to bolster the US commitment to defend its Asian ally with all available military capabilities, including nuclear.

The F-22 jets were supposed to stay in South Korea for joint exercises this week with the South Korean air force, but the US planes eventually returned to their bases in South Korea. Japan due to weather conditions, South Korean defense officials said.

The aerial drills come after North Korea said it used old rockets as launch vehicles to test cameras and other systems on Sunday to develop the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite. this. Its state media also published low-resolution photos of South Korean cities as seen from space.

Some civilian experts in South Korea said the photos were too crude for surveillance purposes and that the launch was likely a cover for North Korea’s missile technology tests. South Korea’s military confirmed that North Korea fired two intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Such assessments have angered North Korea, with the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un making crude insults at unnamed South Korean experts. Kim Yo Jong said there is no reason to use expensive, high-resolution cameras for the one-time test.

Kim Yo Jong also scoffed at South Korea’s previous assessment that North Korea still has technological hurdles to overcome in order to obtain operational ICBMs that can launch nuclear attacks on the homeland of the United States – such as such as its ability to protect warheads from extreme conditions when re-entering the atmosphere.

To demonstrate North Korea’s ICBM capabilities, she suggested that North Korea could perform a standard orbit ICBM launch since all previous North Korean ICBM launches were carried out at steep angles to avoid neighboring countries. Such a launch could ignite hostilities in the region and provoke a strong response from the US as the weapon will fly towards the Pacific Ocean.

A spy satellite and a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile are among the high-tech weapons systems Kim Jong Un has vowed to introduce in response to what he calls hostilities. US enemy. Other weapons systems he wants to buy include multi-warhead missiles, underwater nuclear missiles, nuclear-powered submarines and hypersonic missiles.

Last week, North Korea tested a “high-thrust solid-fuel engine” that experts say will be used for solid-fuel rockets, which are more agile and harder to detect before launch than conventional weapons. liquid fuel gas.


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report

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