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Pyongyang fires missiles ahead of US-South Korea exercises

SEOUL: North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile on Thursday, the South Korean military said, Pyongyang’s latest show of force, just days before South Korea and the United States launch major joint military exercises.

Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their worst junctures in decades as the nuclear-armed North conducts increasingly provocative banned weapons tests as Seoul stepped up security cooperation with Washington in response.

Last year, Kim Jong Un’s regime declared North Korea an “irreversible” nuclear power and vowed to increase arms production, including tactical nuclear weapons, exponentially as the US seeks to bring more assets to the region to defend ally Seoul .

Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said they “detected the launch of a short-range ballistic missile from the western northern port city of Nampo at 6:20 p.m.”

It added it was “assessing the possibility that North Korea simultaneously launched multiple short-range ballistic missiles from the same region.”

“Our military maintains a full readiness posture while working closely with the US as we have increased surveillance and vigilance,” it said.

North Korea has long claimed its nuclear weapons and missile programs are in self-defense and has resented military exercises between the US and South Korea, describing them as rehearsals for an invasion.

Earlier this week, North Korea accused the US of “deliberately” escalating tensions, and Kim’s powerful sister warned that if the US intercepted one of the Pyongyang missile tests, it would be taken as a “clear declaration of war”.

“Freedom Shield”

After talks between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed in 2019, diplomacy has stalled and the North has doubled down on military development.

South Korea’s hawkish President Yoon Suk Yeol has sought to strengthen diplomatic ties and security cooperation with Tokyo and Washington in response to growing threats from Pyongyang.

US President Joe Biden will receive Yoon on a state visit on April 26, and the South Korean leader will also visit Tokyo next week, his office said.

This month, the US and South Korean militaries will hold their largest joint exercises in five years.

Prior to these exercises, dubbed “Freedom Shield,” scheduled for at least 10 days beginning March 13, the Allies conducted air exercises this week with a nuclear-capable US B-52 bomber.

“This is likely just the beginning of a series of provocative tests by North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“Pyongyang stands ready to respond aggressively to major U.S.-South Korea defense drills, as well as President Yoon’s upcoming summits with (Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden),” he said.

“The Kim regime can order longer-range missile fire, attempt to launch a spy satellite, demonstrate a solid-fuel engine, and maybe even conduct a nuclear test.”

North Korea has presented its missile tests and military drills as justified countermeasures after the US-South Korea drills.

Last week she called on the United Nations to urge a halt to these exercises, reiterating that her nuclear weapons ensured the balance of power in the region.

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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