Seoul, South Korea –
North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile towards its eastern seas on Sunday, extending a provocative streak of weapons testing as a US aircraft carrier visits South Korea for joint military exercises in response to the growing nuclear threat from the North.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile launched from the western inland city of Taechon traveled 600 kilometers across the country at a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers before landing in the waters off the east coast of North Korea.
South Korea’s military has condemned North Korea’s launch as a “serious provocation” that violates UN Security Council resolutions and “undermines the peace and security” of the region and the international community at large.
US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch did not pose “an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies”, but did stress the destabilizing impact of illicit aviation programs. North Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons.
North Korea ramped up its testing activities at a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a protracted stalemate. nuclear diplomacy.
The launch came as the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group arrived in South Korea for the two countries’ joint military exercises aimed at showing strength against growing North Korean threats.
During a launch discussion on Sunday, the Chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Kim Seung-kyum, and General Paul LaCamera, an American general who leads Combined Forces Command South Korea -United States in Seoul, reaffirmed its intention to strengthen the allies. common defense posture through training, according to the South Korean military.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement that Tokyo is “doing everything possible” to gather information on North Korea’s launch and confirm the safety of the ships and planes, although no damage was caused. reported immediately.
The North Korean threat is also expected to be on the agenda when US Vice President Kamala Harris visits South Korea next week after attending the state funeral in Tokyo of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
North Korea ramped up its testing activities at a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017. North Korea operates a division in the United Nations Security Council that s is dug because of Russia’s war against Ukraine to accelerate the development of armaments.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un punctuated his weapons tests with repeated threats that the North would proactively use its nuclear weapons if threatened, raising security concerns for its conventionally armed rival, North Korea. South.
North Korea has so far rejected calls from the United States and South Korea to return to nuclear diplomacy, which have stalled since 2019 over disagreements over the exchange of release from directed sanctions. by the United States against the North and the North’s disarmament measures.
The arrival of the USS Reagan in South Korea came after Kim told parliament in Pyongyang this month that he would never give up the nuclear weapons and missiles he needs to counter what he perceives as American hostility.
Kim’s speech came as North Korean lawmakers passed a law that enshrines its status as a nuclear power and authorizes the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios where the country or its leaders are threatened, setting out an escalating nuclear doctrine.
Speaking to U.S. and South Korean troops aboard the Reagan on Saturday, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said sending U.S. strategic assets to the region showed the unwavering commitment of the United States to defend South Korea. He said the North would receive an overwhelming response if it attempted to use nuclear weapons, according to a statement from his ministry.
Sunday’s test could soon be followed by a more provocative weapons demonstration, as South Korean officials said they detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test a missile system designed to be launched from of submarines. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said on Saturday it had been briefed on the developments ahead of his flight home from a visit to Canada.
On Wednesday, 38 North, a North Korea-focused website, said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows several barges and other vessels gathered in the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a major construction shipyard. of submarines. The report says the North may be preparing to launch a new submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles.
North Korea has made great efforts to be able to fire nuclear missiles from submarines. Such weapons would in theory strengthen North Korea’s deterrence by ensuring retaliation after absorbing a nuclear attack on land.
Ballistic missile submarines would also add a new maritime threat to the North’s growing collection of solid-fuel weapons fired from ground vehicles, which are being developed with the apparent aim of overwhelming missile defense systems. in South Korea and Japan.
Still, experts say the heavily sanctioned nation would need significantly more time, resources and major technological upgrades to build at least several submarines that could travel the seas quietly and reliably execute strikes.
Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to the Tokyo story.
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