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North Korea launches ballistic missile towards Sea of ​​Japan

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North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, the latest launch as Seoul and Washington conduct their largest joint military exercises in five years.

North Korea once again shows the muscles. Pyongyang fired a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, March 18, according to the South Korean army, its fourth show of force in a week as Seoul and Washington conduct their largest joint military exercises in five years.

“Our army detected a short-range ballistic missile fired from the vicinity of the Tongchang-ri area in North Pyongan Province (northwest) at 11:05 a.m. (2:05 GMT) towards the sea of ​​the ‘East,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, referring to the Korean name for the Sea of ​​Japan.

US and South Korean intelligence are analyzing the projectile, which flew 800 kilometers, the JCS said in a statement, calling the launch a “serious provocation” in violation of UN sanctions.

The JCS added that the army stands ready to respond “overwhelmingly”, while continuing “intensive and thorough military maneuvers and exercises”.

Seoul and Washington have been carrying out their largest military maneuvers in five years since Monday, supposed to strengthen their cooperation in the face of the growing threat from the North. Called “Freedom Shield”, they must last until March 23.

The US Army’s Indo-Pacific Command also condemned the firing, which underscores the “destabilizing impact” of banned North Korean weapons programs.

Tokyo also confirmed the shooting while condemning it “vehemently” through its embassy in Beijing, Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino told reporters.

According to Japanese media citing unnamed government sources, the projectile appears to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) after following an irregular trajectory.

The exercises in Seoul and Washington infuriate Pyongyang, which sees them as rehearsals for an invasion of its territory and regularly promises an “overwhelming” response.

They are “approaching an unforgivable red line”, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said of them on Saturday.

“Franic” military exercises

Sunday’s launch comes a day after a KCNA announcement that “more than 800,000” young volunteers determined to “ruthlessly annihilate the war-obsessed” have joined the military to fight “the American imperialists”.

On Thursday, Pyongyang fired its Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the most powerful in its arsenal, in the presence of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his daughter, and just before a visit to Japan from South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.

Cold for years due to a historic dispute, the two neighbors have resumed language at the highest level and decided to present a united front against North Korea.

Yoon Suk Yeol also announced the reactivation of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). This pact, signed in 2016 but called into question in 2019 by Seoul due to diplomatic tensions, allows the exchange of military information.

Thursday was Pyongyang’s second ICBM test this year, which KCNA said at the time was a response to “frenzied” military exercises by South Korea and the United States.

The firing itself came after the launch Tuesday of two short-range ballistic missiles and, on March 12, two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine.

Experts had warned that Pyongyang would probably take the pretext of these maneuvers to fire more missiles and perhaps even carry out a nuclear test, which would be the seventh in its history and the first since 2017.

Last year, North Korea declared its status as a nuclear power “irreversible” and Kim Jong Un called for an “exponential” increase in the country’s military arsenal, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, the leader ordered the military to step up its own maneuvers for “real war”.

With AFP

France 24-Trans

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