June 21st, 2024

North Korea test-fires suspected missiles a day after US and South Korea conduct a fighter jet drill

By Hyung-jin Kim, The Associated Press on May 17, 2024.

FILE - In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, supervises artillery firing drills in North Korea Thursday, March 7, 2024. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea fired suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Friday, South Korea’s military said, a day after South Korea and the U.S. flew powerful fighter jets in a joint drill that the North views as a major security threat.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launches were made from the North’s east coast Wonsan region around 3:10 p.m. It said South Korea’s military had bolstered its surveillance posture and was maintaining readiness.

In recent months, North Korea has extended its run of weapons testing as part of its efforts to enlarge and modernize its arsenal while diplomacy with the United States and South Korea remains dormant. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test firing of a new multiple rocket launch system, according to the North’s state media.

North Korea says it has been forced to boost its nuclear and missile programs to deal with U.S.-led hostilities. North Korea cites expanded U.S.-South Korean military training, which it calls an invasion rehearsal. Many foreign experts say North Korea uses its rivals’ military drills as a pretext for building a larger weapons arsenal in the belief that it would boost its leverage in future diplomacy with the U.S.

On Thursday, two South Korean F-35As and two U.S. F-22 Raptors were mobilized for combined aerial exercises over the central region of South Korea. North Korea is extremely sensitive to the deployment of sophisticated U.S. aircraft.

Earlier Friday, Kim’s sister and senior official Kim Yo Jong said North Korea’s recent weapons tests were part of the country’s five-year arms buildup plan launched in 2021. She said the recently tested weapons are designed to attack Seoul, the South Korean capital, and denied outside speculation that the tests were meant to display weapons that North Korea plans to export to Russia.

“We don’t conceal the fact that such weapons will be used to prevent Seoul from inventing any idle thinking,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by state media.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with North Korea, responded that it is fully ready to repel any military threats from North Korea in conjunction with its military alliance with the United States. Deputy ministry spokesperson Kim Inae also said that “illegal” arms deals between North Korea and Russia must be stopped immediately.

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