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North Korea fires short-range ballistic missiles after US, South Korea held fighter jet drill

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff condemned the launch as a provocation and vowed to repel aggressions by Pyongyang as tensions rose. This came after two US F-22 raptors participated in a joint military drill with South Korea, which North Korea sees as a security threat.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Seoul Published on: May 17, 2024 17:49 IST
Representational Image
Image Source : REUTERS Representational Image

Seoul: In another incident that flared up tensions at the Korean Peninsula, North Korea fired suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast, according to the South Korean military, a day after South Korea and the US flew powerful fighter jets in a joint drill that the North views as a major security threat. The ballistic missile launched was also confirmed by Japan that landed outside its exclusive economic zone.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, condemning the launch as a provocation,  said the projectiles were fired from the east coast town of Wonsan and flew about 300 km (186 miles) before landing in the sea. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said a North Korean missile landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone.

North Korea has launched ballistic and cruise missiles as well as tactical rockets in recent months, describing them as part of a program to upgrade its defensive capabilities. South Korea's military did not specify the latest type of weapon, but the North's state media has reported that its military has been testing multiple launch rocket systems that are being upgraded.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff pledged to maintain a firm readiness to repel potential aggressions by North Korea in conjunction with the military alliance with the United States as tensions between the two long-standing rivals continue to escalate. In recent weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un viewed the testing of 600 mm "super-large" multiple rocket launchers and 240 mm multiple launch rockets and also visited production facilities.

Simmering tensions in Korean peninsula

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have increased since the North last year scrapped a 2018 pact aimed at de-escalating tensions near the military border drawn up under a truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War and then labelled the South "enemy No. 1". Pyongyang says it has been forced to boost its nuclear and missile programs to deal with US-led hostilities, viewing the joint drills with Seoul as an invasion rehearsal.

Last month, Kim asserted that now is the time to be more prepared for war than ever due to unstable geopolitical situations surrounding his country, as he inspected a military university, according to state-controlled media KCNA. He told the university staff and students that "if the enemy opts for a military confrontation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the DPRK will deal a death blow to the enemy without hesitation by mobilising all means in its possession".

On Thursday, two South Korean F-35As and two US F-22 Raptors were mobilized for a combined aerial exercise over the central region of South Korea. North Korea is extremely sensitive to the deployment of sophisticated US aircraft. It was reportedly the first deployment of a US F-22 to South Korea in seven months. North Korea called it "another clear proof of the hostile nature of the US" which seeks a "showdown of force".

Kim's sister denies sending weapons to Russia

Meanwhile, the powerful sister of North Korea's leader, Kim Yo Jong, said its tactical weapons were intended solely as a deterrent against South Korean military aggression, while again denying that Pyongyang was exporting the weapons. US and South Korean officials have accused the North of shipping weapons to Russia to help Moscow replenish stocks for use in its war against Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusation.

“We have no intention to export our military technical capabilities to any country or open them to the public,” she said in a statement carried by state media. She said North Korea’s recent weapons tests were purely performed as parts of the country’s five-year arms buildup plan launched in 2021 and that the recently tested weapons are designed to attack Seoul, the South Korean capital.

“We don’t conceal the fact that such weapons will be used to prevent Seoul from inventing any idle thinking,” Kim Yo Jong said. South Korea’s Unification Ministry responded later by asserting that it is fully ready to repel military threats by North Korea in step with its military alliance with the US Deputy Ministry spokesperson Kim Inae also said that “illegal” arms dealings between North Korea and Russia must be stopped immediately.

(with inputs from agencies)

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