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North Korea fires another barrage of ballistic missiles as tensions flare with South Korea

The missile launch happened after hundreds of balloons carrying trash and excrement across the heavily fortified border to South Korea on Wednesday as a "gift". Tensions have increased between the two Koreas due to weapons tests by North and combined military exercises in the South.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Seoul Published on: May 30, 2024 7:23 IST
North Korea, ballistic missile
Image Source : AP TV screens in Seoul shows an image of North Korea's rocket launch.

Seoul: The South Korean military on Thursday accused North Korea of firing yet another barrage of short-range ballistic missiles towards its eastern sea, days after its attempt to launch a military spy satellite ended in failure and drew strong condemnation from its rivals. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected 10 North Korean projectiles coming from an area near its capital Pyongyang.

The South Korean military said the suspected ballistic missiles flew around 350 km before in landing in waters off the North's eastern coast. The South Korean military has increased surveillance and is closely sharing information with the United States and Japan. A maritime safety advisory was issued by Japan's coast guard that urged ships to exercise caution if they found any fallen objects.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the missiles were believed to have landed in waters outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone and there were no immediate reports of damages. He said Tokyo “strongly condemns” the launches, which are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions against the North.

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula have increased due to North Korea's aggressive weapons testing and South Korea's combined military exercises with the US and Japan that have intensified in a cycle of tit-for-tat exercises. North Korea had fired suspected short-range ballistic missiles last on May 17., as part of a programme to upgrade its defensive capabilities.

North Korea sends trash-filled balloons to South

Meanwhile, North Korea sent hundreds of balloons carrying trash and excrement across the heavily fortified border to South Korea on Wednesday "as a gift" in a retaliation against South Korean activists flying anti-North Korean propaganda leaflets across the border. The balloons prompted an angry response from Seoul, which called the act "base and dangerous".

The South's military said about 260 North Korean balloons were found dropped in various parts of the country. It advised civilians not to touch the objects flown from North Korea and to report to military or police after discovering them. There were no immediate reports of damage caused by the balloons. 

Kim Yo Jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and a powerful ruling party official, issued a statement on state media KCNA, slamming Seoul as "shameful, brazen" for criticising the balloons while defending its citizens' own freedom of expression. The North's balloons were "gifts of sincerity" for South Koreans who "cry for freedom of expression", she said, vowing to send more such balloons.

North Korea's failed military satellite launch

These altercations followed a major setback for North Korea, when the rocket carrying its military reconnaissance satellite exploded mid-air on Monday, dealing a blow to Kim's plan to launch three more military spy satellites in 2024 after its first one was put into orbit in November. The November launch was heavily criticised by South Korea, Japan and the United States.

Kim Jong Un said space reconnaissance capabilities are crucial for national self defence against enemy threats and the country will never give up the fight to own that ability, state media said on Wednesday. "Possessing military reconnaissance satellites is a crucial task to strengthen national self-defence deterrence and protect national sovereignty and security from potential threats ... due to US military acts and provocations," he said.

"The launch of a reconnaissance satellite this time did not accomplish its goal but, comrades, we shall not be disheartened or intimidated by the failure but instead intensify our efforts. Through failure we learn more and advance further," Kim added. Despite the failure, experts said the latest satellite launch by the North showcased new strides in the nuclear-armed country's race for space. 

One expert claimed that the satellite's design indicated Russian assistance in building the rocket, calling it a "huge leap." North Korea and Russia have dramatically upgraded military cooperation since their leaders' summit last year. The United Nations bans North Korea from conducting any satellite launches, considering them a guise for testing long-range missile technology.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Why did North Korea send 'special balloon gifts' carrying excrement to South Korea? EXPLAINED



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