Seoul, South Korea
North Korea tested a ballistic missile on Thursday when it warned the United States of a “fiercer military counteraction” against Washington’s strengthened defense ties with South Korea and Japan amid rising regional tensions.
In a statement released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the strengthening of the U.S.’s expanded deterrence for allies in the region is “gambling where it certainly regrets will get from”.
The greater the U.S. defense presence in the region, “the fiercer (North Korean) military counter-action will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said.
“The U.S. will be well aware that it’s gambling, which it will surely regret,” Choe said, adding that recent large-scale joint military exercises between the U.S. and its allies “have failed to counteract North Korea’s response.” can control”.
The KCNA statement said the warning was in response to trilateral talks between the US, South Korea and Japan at the ASEAN summit on Sunday. At the meeting, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to bolster expanded deterrence and defend South Korea and Japan with a “full range of capabilities,” including nuclear weapons.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen steadily this year, with South Korea and the US responding to Pyongyang’s missile tests by stepping up joint exercises and military exercises, as well as their own missile tests.
South Korea and the US conducted a missile defense exercise on Thursday, reaffirming their strong joint defense position, according to the South Korean defense ministry.
Later Thursday, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile from the Wonsan area of Kangwon province at about 10:48 a.m. local time.
It said the missile, which landed in waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, had a flight range of about 240 kilometers (149 miles), reached an altitude of about 47 kilometers (29 miles) and reached a top speed of about Mach 4 – indicating it traveled four times the speed of sound, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The South Korean military has strengthened its surveillance and is working closely with the United States, the Joint Chiefs said.
Japan’s defense ministry said on Thursday that no missiles have fallen on Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Tokyo will continue to “gather and analyze necessary intelligence and closely monitor North Korean military trends in close cooperation with the United States and South Korea.”
This is the 33rd day this year that North Korea has conducted a missile test, according to a CNN tally. The count includes both ballistic and cruise missiles. In contrast, it conducted only four tests in 2020 and eight in 2021.
The US and international observers have been warning for months that North Korea appears to be preparing for an underground nuclear test, with satellite images showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the first in five years for the hermit nation.