North Korea launches a ballistic missile with a range of 500 miles while the United States and South Korea conduct exercises

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile toward the sea on Sunday, its neighbors said, stepping up testing activities in response to continued Military exercises between the United States and South Korea which she regards as a rehearsal for an invasion.

North Korea’s continued missile tests showed its determination not to back down despite the US-South Korean exercises, which are the largest of their kind in years. But many experts say the tests are also part of North Korea’s larger goal to expand its arsenal, win global recognition as a nuclear state and lift international sanctions.

The missile was launched from North Korea’s northwestern Tongchangri region before landing in waters off the east coast, according to South Korean and Japanese estimates. They said the missile traveled about 800 kilometers (500 miles), a range that indicates the weapon could be targeting South Korea.

Key nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the United States discussed the launch over the phone and strongly condemned it as a provocation that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. They agreed to enhance coordination between them to issue a firm international response to North Korea’s actions, according to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.

US Air Force B-1B bombers fly in formation with South Korean Air Force F-35A fighter jets.

A US Army helicopter transports an M777 howitzer.
A US Army helicopter transports an M777 howitzer.

South Korea’s military said it will fully continue the rest of the joint exercises with the United States and remain ready to respond with an “overwhelming majority” to any North Korean provocation. As part of the exercises, the United States on Sunday launched B-1B long-range bombers for joint training with South Korean warplanes, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

North Korea is very sensitive to the deployment of B-1Bs, which are capable of carrying a huge conventional weapons payload. The February flights of B-1Bs were responded to by test firing missiles that showed potential ranges for hitting some air bases in South Korea.

Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Inoue said the missile fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of damage to ships or aircraft. He said the missile likely showed an irregular trajectory, a possible reference to North Korea’s highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile which was modeled after Russia’s Iskander missile.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launch did not pose a direct threat to the US homeland or its allies. But she said the recent North Korean launches highlight the “destabilizing impact of illegal weapons programs” and that the US security commitment to South Korea and Japan remains “unwavering”.

American soldiers train in Bucheon, South Korea.
American soldiers train in Bucheon, South Korea.

Army soldiers working on an M777 howitzer.
Army soldiers working on an M777 howitzer.

The launch was North Korea’s third round of weapons tests since the US and South Korean militaries began their joint military exercises on Monday. The exercises, which include computer simulations and field exercises, are scheduled to continue through Thursday. The field exercises are the largest of their kind since 2018.

Weapons that North Korea recently tested Its longer-range ballistic missiles include the Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile designed to hit the US mainland. North Korean state media quoted leader Kim Jong Un as saying the intercontinental ballistic missile launch was aimed at “striking fear into the hearts of enemies”.

Thursday’s launch, the first ICBM launch from the North in a month, drew strong protests from Seoul, Tokyo and Washington. It was carried out just hours before South Korean President Yoon Sok-yul was due to arrive in Tokyo for a closely watched summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

During the summit, Yone and Kishida They agreed to resume defense dialogue and enhance security cooperation with the United States to confront North Korea and address other challenges.

Kim Jong Un
North Korea continued its missile tests despite the ongoing exercises between the United States and South Korea.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have suffered a major setback in recent years due to issues stemming from the Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

But North Korea’s record-breaking missile test last year — it fired more than 70 in 2022 alone — has prompted Seoul and Tokyo to seek stronger trilateral security partnerships that include Washington, which also wants to strengthen its alliances in Asia to better deal with the rise of China and North Korean nuclear threats. .

North Korea has missiles that put Japan within striking distance. Last October, North Korea fired a medium-range missile into northern Japan, forcing communities there to issue evacuation alerts and stop trains.

After Sunday’s launch, Kishida ordered a swift response, including working closely with South Korea and the United States, according to Inoue, Japan’s deputy defense minister.

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