SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Friday, its latest weapons display that came days after U.S. and South Korean warplanes conducted joint exercises that North Korea considers a rehearsal for an invasion.
North Korea has carried out an unprecedented number of missile tests this year in what some experts call an attempt to boost its weapons capacity and pressure rivals into making concessions such as the sanctions relief in future negotiations. Recently, the North also claimed to have carried out major tests needed to acquire its first spy satellite and a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the American continent.
The South Korean military detected the two missile launches from the North Korean capital area around 4:32 p.m. Friday. Japan said it also confirmed at least one missile launch by North Korea.
It was not known exactly what types of missiles North Korea had fired. The South Korean military said the missiles traveled about 250 kilometers (155 miles) and 350 kilometers (220 miles) respectively before landing in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said a missile detected by Japan flew up to 300 kilometers (180 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles). He said the missile could have shown an “irregular” trajectory, a possible reference to North Korea’s highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile, which was modeled after the Russian Iskander missile.
The South Korean military called the launches a “serious provocation” that undermines international peace. He said South Korea would maintain firm preparedness and closely monitor North Korean movements in coordination with the United States. Ino also accused North Korea of dramatically increasing tensions with repeated weapons tests.
The launches could be a response to U.S.-South Korean military aerial exercises near the Korean peninsula on Tuesday, as North Korea said its torrid series of testing activities over the past few months were meant to warn previous combined exercises of his rivals. Washington and Seoul have said their drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea calls them practice for an invasion.
The latest U.S.-South Korean drills have drawn B-52 nuclear-capable bombers and F-22 stealth fighter jets from the United States and other advanced warplanes from South Korea. The training was part of a bilateral agreement aimed at strengthening the US commitment to defending its Asian ally with all available military capabilities, including nuclear, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
The F-22 planes were supposed to stay in South Korea for further joint exercises this week with the South Korean Air Force, but the US plane eventually returned to its base in Japan due to weather conditions. , South Korean defense officials said.
The aerial drills came after North Korea said on Sunday it used old missiles as launchers to test cameras and other systems for the development of its first military reconnaissance satellite. Its state media also released low-resolution photos of South Korean cities seen from space.
Some civilian experts in South Korea said the photos were too crude for surveillance purposes and that the launches were likely a cover for testing North Korean missile technology. The South Korean military claimed that North Korea fired two medium-range ballistic missiles.
Such assessments have infuriated North Korea, with the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hurling crude insults at unidentified South Korean experts. Kim Yo Jong said there was no reason to use an expensive high-resolution camera for a single-take test.
Kim Yo Jong also scoffed at South Korea’s previous assessment that North Korea still has technological hurdles to overcome to acquire functional ICBMs capable of launching nuclear strikes on US territory – such as the ability to protect its warheads from the difficult conditions of atmospheric re-entry.
To prove the North’s ICBM capability, she suggested that North Korea could perform a standard trajectory ICBM launch. All previous ICBM launches from the North have been made at a steep angle to avoid neighboring countries. A normal-angle ICBM launch could sharply inflame regional animosities and trigger a strong US response as the weapon flies toward the Pacific Ocean.
A spy satellite and a solid-fuel ICBM are among the high-tech weapons systems Kim Jong Un has pledged to introduce to deal with what he calls US hostility. Other weapon systems it wants to acquire include multi-warhead missiles, underwater-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, and hypersonic missiles.
North Korea last week tested a “high-thrust solid-fuel engine” that experts say would be used for a solid-fuel missile, which is more agile and harder to detect before launches than weapons. liquid fuel.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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