Seoul, South Korea –
South Korea’s military said North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile into waters off its west coast on Thursday.
The launch comes as the United States and South Korea prepare to hold their biggest joint military training drills in years next week to counter the threat of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which leader Kim Jong Un has called on for his country’s has expanded aggressively in recent years despite deep economic isolation. and epidemiological difficulties.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was fired from an area near the west coast city of Nampo at around 6:20 p.m. There was no immediate estimate of how far it flew or where it landed.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said later Thursday that it was examining the possibility that North Korea may have launched multiple ballistic missiles, not just one, from the area.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the South Korean military strengthened monitoring of North Korean activities while maintaining “full readiness” in close coordination with its ally the US. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch posed “no immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or our allies”, but still highlighted the destabilizing effect of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
Kim’s powerful sister warned on Tuesday that her country was prepared to take “swift, coercive action” against the United States and South Korea as North Korea expanded its military training to deal with the growing nuclear threat. I went.
After a record year in missile testing, North Korea has lined up more weapons displays for 2023, including in recent weeks the test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, short-range missiles and a purported long-range cruise missile system.
Experts say North Korea, with its increased test activity and threats, is trying to claim the ability to launch nuclear strikes on South Korea and the US mainland. Analysts say Kim, who sees his nuclear arsenal as the strongest guarantee of his survival, is trying to force the United States to acknowledge the North as a nuclear power, and badly. Wants to negotiate necessary economic concessions.
Diplomacy between the US and North Korea has stalled since 2019 because of disagreements over easing US-led sanctions against the North in exchange for steps by the North to shut down its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Last week, the South Korean and US armies announced they would hold computer-simulated command post training March 13-23 and resume their largest-ever springtime field exercises, which were last held in 2018.
The United States recently sent advanced warplanes including B-1B and B-52 long-range bombers to train with South Korean planes in a show of strength, triggering protests from North Korea, which allies Describes the joint practice of. Attack rehearsal.
The allies had canceled or scaled back some of their regular drills since 2018 to support the now passive diplomacy with North Korea and guard against the COVID-19 pandemic. But they are resuming their drills after North Korea tested dozens of missiles last year and threatened to use its nuclear weapons in potential conflicts with its rivals.
North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and provocations have increased the need for South Korea and Japan to strengthen their defense posture with their alliance with the United States.
Expanding joint exercises with the US, the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is also seeking strong assurances that the United States will swiftly and decisively deploy its nuclear capabilities to defend Seoul in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack. will use
Under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Japan has made a major break from its post-World War II self-defense-only doctrine, adopting a new national security strategy in December that includes preemptive strike capabilities and cruise missiles to counter growing threats. Includes goals to be achieved. from North Korea, China and Russia.
Their shared urgency over security is also bringing South Korea and Japan closer together, following disputes stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula before the end of World War II.
Earlier on Thursday, the South Korean and Japanese governments said Yoon would travel to Tokyo next week to meet Kishida. The summit plans were announced days after the Yoon government announced a domestically controversial plan to use local funds to compensate Koreans enslaved by Japanese companies before the end of World War II. . The plan was praised by US President Joe Biden as a major step towards resolving strained relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
Washington is pressing South Korea and Japan to improve their ties as it seeks stronger trilateral security cooperation to deal with growing regional challenges. Yoon also plans to travel to Washington next week for a meeting with Biden.
“This is probably the start of a series of provocative tests by North Korea,” said Professor Leif-Erik Eisley of Iwa University in Seoul.
North Korea is “prepared to respond aggressively” to major US-South Korea defense exercises as well as President Yoon’s upcoming summits with Prime Minister Kishida and President Biden. Kim regime orders long-range missile firing may attempt a spy satellite launch, demonstrate a solid-fuel engine and perhaps even conduct a nuclear test.”
In her statement on Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister and one of his top foreign policy officials, said North Korea is keeping a close eye on “US military and South Korean puppet forces” and will take “appropriate” measures. ready for. , prompt and forceful action at any time in accordance with our judgment.”
In previous statements, Kim Yo Jong has threatened to turn the Pacific into North Korea’s firing range and has repeatedly implied that the North may test ICBMs on a ballistic trajectory toward those waters, the most successful yet. Will be seen as one of the provocative weapons displays. ,
All of North Korea’s ICBM tests since 2017 have been conducted at a high angle to avoid neighbors’ fields
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