North Korea fires missile after threatening ‘firmer’ step

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SEOUL, South Korea (TBEN) — North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Thursday, hours after the north threatened “fierce” military responses to the U.S. for breaching its security obligations to its allies South Korea and strengthen Japan.

The missile fired at 10:48 a.m. from the eastern coastal area of ​​Wonsan in the north, landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to neighbors. After detecting the launch, South Korean, US and Japanese militaries quickly condemned the launch which they say threatens stability in the region.

It was the first time North Korea had fired a ballistic missile in eight days and the latest in its barrage of tests in recent months. North Korea previously said some of the tests simulated nuclear strikes against South Korean and US targets. Many experts say that North Korea would eventually want to increase its nuclear capability in order to force bigger concessions from its rivals.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned that a recent summit agreement between the US, South Korea and Japan on the north would make tensions on the Korean peninsula “more unpredictable”.

Choe’s statement was North Korea’s first official response to President Biden’s 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. Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.

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A TV screen displays a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. (TBEN Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

“The more enthusiastic the US is about the ‘enhanced offer of expanded deterrence’ to its allies and the more it intensifies provocative and bluffing military activity on the Korean peninsula and in the region, the fiercer (North Korea’s) military counteraction will be, in a direct sense. proportion of it,” Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, realistic and unavoidable threat to the US and its vassal forces.”

Choe did not say what steps North Korea could take, but said that “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, which it will surely 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 the security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo helped solidify a comprehensive US deterrence for its allies.

The North Korean missile launched on Thursday flew about 240 kilometers (150 miles) at a maximum altitude of 47 kilometers (29 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It called the launch “a serious provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean peninsula.

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Japan’s Defense Ministry said repeated missile launches by North Korea threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and international society. The US-Pacific Command said Thursday’s launch “highlights the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”

After the launch, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the South Korean and US militaries held missile defense exercises earlier Thursday to assess joint readiness for North Korean provocations. But South Korean military officials declined to provide further details about the exercises, including whether they were already planned or being staged after discovering signs of an imminent North Korean missile launch.

North Korea has steadfastly maintained that its recent weapons-testing activities are legitimate military countermeasures to US and South Korean military exercises, which it views as a practice of launching attacks against the North. Washington and Seoul have said their exercises are defensive in nature.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a lecture at North Korea's Central Cadres Training School on Oct. 17, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a lecture at North Korea’s Central Cadres Training School on Oct. 17, 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via TBEN)

In recent years, annual military training between Seoul and Washington had been scaled back or canceled to support the now-dormant diplomacy with North Korea and guard against the COVID-19 pandemic. But in recent months, South Korean and US forces have expanded their regular exercises and resumed trilateral training with Japan in response to North Korea’s push to expand its nuclear and missile arsenal.

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In her statement Thursday, Choe said that “one after another, the U.S. and its followers staged large-scale warfare exercises for aggression, but failed to contain North Korea’s overwhelming counteraction.”

There were concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years as the next big step toward strengthening its military capability against the United States and its allies.

US and South Korean officials say North Korea has finished preparing to carry out a nuclear test explosion at its remote test facility in the northeast. Some experts say the test, if carried out, would aim to develop nuclear warheads that could be placed on short-range missiles that could hit key targets in South Korea, such as US military bases.

Thursday’s launch came a day after members of the Group of 20 Leading Economies ended their Indonesia summit. The summit was largely overshadowed by other issues such as Russia’s war on 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 had a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and discussed North Korea before traveling to Indonesia for the G-20 summit.

In their respective bilateral talks with Xi, Biden noted that all members of the international community have an interest in encouraging North Korea to act responsibly, while Yoon called on China to take a more active, constructive role in addressing the North Korean nuclear threats.

China, the North’s last major ally and largest source of aid, is suspected of not fully enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea and sending clandestine aid to the North to help its impoverished neighbor survive. and continue to serve as a bulwark against U.S. influence on North Korea. the Korean Peninsula.