SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, hours after the north threatened “fiercer” military responses to the U.S. strengthen its security obligations to its allies South Korea and Japan.
The South Korean military detected the launch at 10:48 a.m. from the eastern coastal area of Wonsan in the north, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It said South Korea has stepped up its surveillance of North Korea while maintaining a military readiness and close cooperation with the United States.
It was the first time North Korea had fired a ballistic missile in eight days and the latest in its barrage of tests in recent months. North Korea previously said some of the tests were simulations of nuclear strikes on South Korean and American targets. Many experts say that North Korea would eventually want to increase its nuclear capability in order to force bigger concessions from its rivals.
Earlier on Thursday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned that a recent summit agreement between the US, 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 trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. on the sidelines of a regional meeting 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, while Biden continued the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of weapons. capabilities, including its nuclear weapons.
“The more enthusiastic the US is about the ‘enhanced offer of expanded deterrence’ to its allies and the more it intensifies provocative and bluffing military activity on the Korean peninsula and in the region, the fiercer (North Korea’s) military counteraction will be, in a direct sense. proportion of it,” Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, realistic and unavoidable threat to the US and its vassal forces.”
Choe did not say what steps North Korea could take, but said that “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, which it will surely regret.”
South Korea’s defense ministry responded later Thursday that the purpose of the trilateral summit was to coordinate a joint response to contain and deter North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. Spokesman Moon Hong Sik told reporters that the security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo helped solidify a comprehensive US deterrence for its allies.
North Korea has steadfastly maintained that its recent weapons-testing activities are legitimate military countermeasures to US and South Korean military exercises, which it views as a practice of launching attacks against the North. Washington and Seoul have said their exercises are defensive in nature.
In recent months, South Korean and US forces have expanded their regular exercises and resumed trilateral training with Japan in response to North Korea’s push to expand its nuclear and missile arsenal. Those exercises involved a US aircraft carrier and US B-1B supersonic bombers for the first time since 2017. protect against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her statement Thursday, Choe said that “one after another, the U.S. and its followers staged large-scale warfare exercises for aggression, but they failed to contain North Korea’s overwhelming counteraction.”
There were concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in five years as the next big step toward strengthening its military capability against the United States and its allies.
US and South Korean officials say North Korea has finished preparing to carry out a nuclear test explosion at its remote test facility in the northeast. Some experts say the test, if carried out, would aim to develop nuclear warheads that could be placed on short-range missiles that could hit key targets in South Korea, such as US military bases. They say North Korea will eventually try to use its beefed-up arsenal as leverage to pressure the United States into making concessions in future negotiations and recognizing it as a nuclear state.
Thursday’s launch came a day after members of the Group of 20 leading economies ended their summit in Indonesia. The summit was largely overshadowed by other issues, such as Russia’s war against 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 two had a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and discussed North Korea before coming 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 take a more active, constructive role in addressing the North Korean nuclear threats.
China, the North’s last major ally and largest source of aid, is suspected of not fully enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea and sending clandestine aid to the North to help its impoverished neighbor survive. and continue to serve as a bulwark against U.S. influence on North Korea. the Korean Peninsula.