NKorea fires missile and shells, further inflaming tensions

Seoul, South Korea — North Korea fired a ballistic missile and 170 artillery rounds into the sea early Friday and fired a warplane near the tense border with South Korea, raising tensions with the North’s recent weapons tests.

North Korea’s moves suggest it is reviving an old playbook of fear-mongering war with provocative weapons tests before trying to extract more concessions from its rivals.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the short-range missile took off from the North’s capital region at 1:49 a.m. Friday (1649 GMT, 12:49 p.m. EDT Thursday) and headed toward waters east of it.

25 Sep It was North Korea’s 15th missile launch since resuming testing activities on North Korea said on Monday that its recent missile tests were in response to its “dangerous” military exercises involving a US aircraft, simulating nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets. carrier

After the latest missile test, North Korea fired 130 rounds from its west coast and 40 rounds from its east coast. South Korea’s military said the shells fell in a maritime buffer zone established by the two Koreas under the 2018 inter-Korean de-escalation agreement.

Observers said it was North Korea’s third and direct violation of the 2018 accord, which created buffer zones and no-fly zones along their land and sea borders to prevent accidental clashes. South Korea’s defense ministry said it had sent a message to North Korea not to violate the agreement again.

North Korea independently flew warplanes, possibly as many as 10 aircraft, near the rivals’ border late Thursday and early Friday, prompting South Korea to shoot down fighter jets. There are no reports of conflict between the two countries. This is the first time since 2017 that a North Korean military aircraft has flown close to the border.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said North Korea’s provocations were becoming “reckless” but that his country had a massive retaliatory capability that could to some extent deter actual North Korean attacks.

“The decision to attack cannot be made without risking a brutal outcome,” Yun told reporters. “A strategy of massive punishment and retaliation, the final step of our three-axis strategy, will be a significant psychological and social deterrent (for the North).”

South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Friday it had imposed sanctions on 15 North Korean individuals and 16 organizations suspected of involvement in illegal activities to finance North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. It was Seoul’s first unilateral sanctions against North Korea in five years, but observers say it is a largely symbolic move as the two Koreas have little economic trade between them.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters that he supports South Korea’s decision to impose sanctions.

Most of the North’s recent weapons tests were ballistic missile launches, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions. But new sanctions have not been imposed on the North as the United Nations splits over its invasion of Ukraine and the US’s dispute with Russia. China on their strategic competition.

The missile, which was launched on Friday, traveled 650-700 kilometers (403-434 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (30 miles) before landing in waters off the Korean Peninsula. JapanAccording to South Korean and Japanese assessments.

“Regardless of intent, North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches are completely permissible, and we cannot ignore the significant advances in missile technology,” Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said.

He said the missile flew on an “erratic” trajectory – a possible reference to describing the North’s highly maneuverable KN-23 weapon modeled on Russia’s Iskander missile.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the US commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan is “ironclad”.

Other North Korean tests in recent weeks included a new intermediate-range missile that flew over Japan and demonstrated its potential range to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam; A ballistic missile fired from an inland reservoir, a first for the country; and long-range cruise missiles.

After Wednesday’s cruise missile launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the tests had successfully demonstrated his military’s extended nuclear strike capability. He said his nuclear forces were fully prepared for “real war to bring the enemy under their control” and pledged to expand the operational area of ​​its nuclear armed forces, according to North Korean state media.

Some observers had predicted that North Korea would temporarily pause its testing activities this week in response to its ally China, which is set to launch a major political conference on Sunday to hand President Xi Jinping a third five-year term as party leader.

North Korea’s ongoing testing spree is reminiscent of its 2017 rampage of missile and nuclear tests that prompted Kim and then US-President Donald Trump to exchange threats of total annihilation. Kim then abruptly entered into high-stakes diplomacy with Trump in 2018 but their negotiations fell apart a year later as they clashed over how many sanctions concessions Kim should give in return for a partial surrender of his nuclear capabilities.

Kim has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of resuming nuclear diplomacy. But some experts say he wants to eventually win international recognition of his country as a nuclear power and hold arms control talks with the United States to get broad sanctions relief and other concessions in return for partial disarmament steps.

North Korea’s nuclear program has gained urgency as it passed a new law last month authorizing the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations, including non-war situations, when its leadership may feel threatened.

Most of North Korea’s recent tests have been of short-range nuclear-capable missiles aimed at South Korea. Some analysts say North Korea’s possible upcoming nuclear test, its first in five years, will be related to efforts to develop a battlefield tactical warhead to mount on such short-range missiles.

The developments shook the security system in South Korea, with some politicians and scholars calling for the United States to redeploy its strategic nuclear weapons to South Korea to sharply deter North Korean nuclear threats.

North Korea’s military said early Friday that it had put up unspecified “strong military resistance” in response to South Korean artillery fire for about 10 hours near the border on Thursday. South Korea’s military later confirmed that it conducted artillery training in frontline areas but said its drills did not violate the terms of the 2018 agreement.

Major General Kang Ho Pil of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a televised statement that South Korea had issued “a stern warning” to “immediately halt” its weapons tests. He said South Korea has the ability to “coercively respond” to any provocation by North Korea.

South Korea’s military said it will begin its annual 12-day field training next Monday to improve its operational capabilities in various scenarios to counter North Korean provocations. US troops plan to participate in this year’s drills, it said.

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Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed.

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