North Korea launches short-range ballistic missile

North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, the military in Seoul said, the fourth show of force in a week of major military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

Seoul and Washington have stepped up defense cooperation in the face of growing military and nuclear threats from North Korea, which has conducted a series of increasingly provocative prohibited weapons tests in recent months.

South Korea and the United States are conducting an 11-day joint exercise called Freedom Shield, their largest in five years.

North Korea views all such drills as rehearsals for an invasion and has repeatedly warned of “overwhelming” action in response.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said: “Our military detected a short-range ballistic missile fired into the East Sea from near the Dongchang-ri area in North Pyongan Province at 11:05 a.m. (0205 GMT). This body of water is also known as the Sea of ​​Japan.

The missile flew 800 kilometers (500 miles) and was being analyzed by U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies, JCS said in a statement, calling the launch a “serious provocation” in violation of U.N. sanctions.

“Our military will maintain a solid combat readiness posture while conducting intensive and thorough joint drills and exercises based on its overwhelming ability to respond to any North Korean provocation,” it said.

Tokyo also confirmed the launch, with Deputy Defense Minister Toshiro Ino telling reporters that Japan “has lodged a strong protest and strong condemnation to (North Korea) through our embassy in Beijing”.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command condemned the launch, saying it highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s banned weapons programme.

South Korea’s defense ministry said hours after the launch it held a joint air exercise with the United States that included at least one American B-1B long-range bomber.

The drills also involved South Korean F-35A stealth fighter jets and American F-16 fighter jets, and were conducted as part of Exercise Freedom Shield. The exercise “significantly enhances interoperability … and wartime capabilities” among allied nations, the ministry said in a statement.

– ‘War Madman’ –
The latest launch comes a day after North Korean state media reported that more than 800,000 young North Koreans had volunteered to join the army to fight “US imperialism”.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the young volunteers were determined to “ruthlessly wipe out war madmen” and joined the army “to defend the country”.

On Thursday, Pyongyang tested its largest and most powerful ICBM, the Hwasong-17, its second ICBM test this year. It described the launch as a response to “crazy” US-South Korea exercises.

At the request of the United States and Japan, the UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Monday regarding the ICBM launch, Yonhap News Agency reported.

In a statement carried by KCNA on Sunday, North Korea’s foreign ministry “strongly” warned the United States and other countries to bring “North Korea’s legitimate self-defense countermeasures into the discussion of the United Nations Security Council.” North Korea is the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

Analysts have previously said that North Korea may use the exercise as an excuse for more missile launches and possibly even a nuclear test.

The ICBM launch followed the launch of two short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday and two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine last Sunday.

Pyongyang’s latest spate of aggression has prompted Seoul and Tokyo to mend ties over historical disputes and work to strengthen security cooperation.

Hours after the ICBM launch, South Korean President Yoon Hee-yeol arrived in Japan on Thursday for the first comprehensive leaders’ summit between the two countries in 12 years.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of Korean Studies in Seoul, said the recent missile launches had several purposes, including protesting joint exercises and testing the trilateral response of South Korea, the United States and Japan.

North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power last year, and leader Kim Jong Un recently called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production, including tactical nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Un also ordered the North Korean military this month to step up drills in preparation for a “real war”.

(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from syndicated feeds.)

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