North Korea fires missile after threatening to act ‘more fiercely’

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile towards its eastern waters on Thursday, hours after the North threatened to launch “more fierce” military responses to the United States, reinforcing its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.

The missile fired from the northeast coastal area of ​​Wonsan at 10:48 a.m. landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to its neighbors. After detecting the launch, the South Korean, American and Japanese military quickly condemned the launch which they say threatens stability in the region.

It was North Korea first ballistic missile launch in eight days and the latest in its barrage of tests in recent months. North Korea has previously said some of the tests were nuclear attack simulations on South Korean and American targets. Many experts say North Korea would eventually want to boost its nuclear capability to wrest greater concessions from its rivals.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned that a recent summit agreement between the United States, South Korea and Japan on the North would make tensions on the Korean peninsula ” more unpredictable”.

Choe’s statement was North Korea’s first official response to US President Joe Biden’s statement. trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional rally on Sunday in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defending South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.

“The more the United States is enthusiastic about the “enhanced offer of extended deterrence” to its allies and the more it escalates its provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean peninsula and in the region, the more the military counteraction (from North Korea) will be fiercer in proportion to that,” Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, realistic, and inevitable threat to the United States and its vassal forces.”

Choe did not say what action North Korea might take, but said “the United States will be well aware that they are playing, which they will certainly regret.”

South Korea’s Defense Ministry responded later Thursday that the purpose of the trilateral summit was to coordinate a joint response to curb and deter the advance of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. Spokesman Moon Hong Sik told reporters that security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo helps bolster the United States’ extensive deterrence of its allies.

The North Korean missile launched on Thursday traveled about 240 kilometers (150 miles) at a maximum altitude of 47 kilometers (29 miles), South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. He called the launch a “serious provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said North Korea’s repeated missile launches threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and international society. US Pacific Command said Thursday’s launch “highlights the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”

After the launch, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the South Korean and U.S. military held missile defense drills earlier Thursday to examine combined readiness for North Korean provocations. But South Korean military officials declined to provide further details on the drills, including whether they were already scheduled or whether they were held after detecting signs of an imminent North Korean missile launch.

North Korea has firmly maintained that its recent weapons testing activities are legitimate military counterattacks to U.S.-South Korean military drills, which it sees as practice for launching attacks against the North. Washington and Seoul said their drills were defensive in nature.

In recent years, annual military training between Seoul and Washington has been scaled back or canceled to bolster the now-dormant diplomacy with North Korea and guard against the COVID-19 pandemic. But in recent months, South Korean and American troops have expanded their regular exercises and resumed trilateral training with Japan in response to North Korea’s efforts to expand its nuclear and missile arsenals.

In his statement on Thursday, Choe said “the United States and its supporters have staged one large-scale war drill for aggression after another, but they have failed to contain the counteraction. overwhelming North Korea”.

It was feared that North Korea would conduct its first nuclear test in five years as the next major step in building up its military capability against the United States and its allies.

US and South Korean officials said North Korea has completed preparations to conduct a nuclear test at its remote test facility in the northeast. Some experts say the test, if carried out, would be for developing nuclear warheads to be placed on short-range missiles capable of hitting key targets in South Korea, such as US military bases.

Thursday’s launch came a day after members The group of 20 major economies has completed its peak in Indonesia. The summit was largely overshadowed by other issues like Russia’s war on Ukraine, but Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol used their bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping to raise the issue of North Korea. The pair had a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and discussed North Korea before heading to Indonesia for the G-20 summit.

In their respective bilateral talks with Xi, Biden noted that all members of the international community have an interest in encouraging North Korea to act responsibly, while Yoon called on China to play a more active and constructive role in the fight against North Korean nuclear threats.

China, the North’s last major ally and biggest source of aid, is suspected of avoiding full implementation of United Nations sanctions against North Korea and sending clandestine aid to the North to help its impoverished neighbor stay afloat and continue to serve as a bulwark against American influence on the Korean Peninsula.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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