North Korea fires ballistic missile, South Korean military says

North Korea fires ballistic missile, South Korean military says

North Korea launched a new ballistic missile Sunday as a US aircraft carrier is in South Korea for drills and days ahead of a visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris to Seoul.

North Korea has been conducting a record-breaking series of weapons tests for several months as negotiations with the international community over its nuclear and missile programs stalled.

Pyongyang notably launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 in May and adopted a new doctrine in early September that proclaimed the country would never give up nuclear weapons.

The South Korean military “detected a short-range missile launched by North Korea at 06:53 (21:53 GMT Saturday) from near Taechon, North Pyongan Province, toward the East Sea” (Sea of ​​Japan), officials said in a statement.

The Japan Coast Guard has warned ships in the area where the missile fell.

According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the projectile traveled a distance of about 400 km at a maximum altitude of 50 km and crashed into the sea off the North Korean coast, apparently outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

“Japan will continue to work to strengthen its defense capabilities by exploring various options, including acquiring responsive capabilities,” Hamada told reporters.

Pyongyang’s repeated launches are “absolutely unforgivable and we cannot ignore the remarkable improvement in its missile technology,” he added.

On Friday, the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its accompanying flotilla arrived at the major port of Busan in southern South Korea. He has to take part in joint exercises with the South Korean army off the east coast of the country in the coming days.

– Visit from Kamala Harris –

This presence reflects the will of Seoul and Washington to increase the American presence in the region.

Conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, has pledged to step up military cooperation with the United States after his predecessor’s failed diplomatic overtures with the North.

Mr. Yoon will also receive US Vice President Kamala Harris in Seoul on Thursday.

“The timing of the last test falls between the arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan this week and Vice President Harris’ visit to Seoul next week,” RAND analyst Soo Kim told AFP Corporation.

“This is a way for North Korea to show its distrust of the alliance and to speak out about it when the time comes,” he said.

Washington is Seoul’s main security ally and has about 28,500 troops in South Korea.

The two countries have been conducting joint exercises for a long time. They insist on being purely defensive in nature, but North Korea sees them as a dress rehearsal for a future invasion of its territory.

“Pyongyang could show a show of force while the US aircraft carrier is in South Korea,” predicted Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

But according to him, “North Korea’s tests are above all part of a long-term campaign to increase its offensive military capabilities.”

South Korean and American officials have been warning for months that North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un is preparing for another nuclear test.

The North Korean regime has tested nuclear bombs six times since 2006. The last and most powerful test came in 2017 with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons. Pyongyang mentioned a hydrogen bomb.

“North Korea may postpone its seventh nuclear test out of respect for China’s upcoming political conference, which Xi Jinping is meticulously preparing to expand his leadership in late October,” Easley said.

“But Pyongyang’s self-discipline has limits,” he added.


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