A sea terminal on the South Korean island of Ulleungdo, where air warnings sounded following North Korean missile launches on November 2-3 (AFP/Anthony WALLACE)
North Korea on Thursday launched new missiles, including a failed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and another of an ‘unspecified type’, after a record of firings that have heightened tensions in the region.
“North Korea launched a missile of an unspecified type,” South Korean military chiefs said Thursday without further details, hours after Seoul announced it was continuing military air drills with the United States.
Continuing the drills is “a very dangerous and wrong choice,” North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee Secretary Park Jong Son said in a press release carried by the official KCNA agency.
The launch was preceded by several missile launches on Thursday, which Seoul said had failed.
The United States condemned the “illegal and destabilizing firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” and the German presidency of the G7 group said it “firmly” condemned it.
The first of three missiles — two short-range missiles followed by an ICBM — were fired from the north toward the Sea of Japan on Thursday morning, according to South Korean joint forces chiefs.
“North Korea’s ICBM launch will end in failure,” the South Korean military said when the rocket’s second stage was separated.
According to him, the missile traveled 760 km at a maximum altitude of 1,920 km and a speed of Mach 15 (15 times the speed of sound).
The other two first missiles traveled about 330 km at Mach 5 and a maximum altitude of 70 km.
Air raid sirens sounded for the second day in a row on the South Korean island of Ulleungdo, 120 km east of the Korean peninsula, local media reported.
Although the missile ultimately did not fly over the archipelago, contrary to initial claims by officials, it also triggered an alert in northern Japan.
According to Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the missile “disappeared in the Sea of Japan”.
Television screens show a project dedicated to North Korean missiles in Seoul on November 3, 2022 (AFP / Jung Yeon-je).
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “The continuous firing of missiles day after day is an outrage and cannot be tolerated.”
On October 4, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years.
On Wednesday, North Korea had already fired 23 missiles, one of which crossed the “Northern Limit Line” (NLL), which extends the inter-Korean land boundary at sea while still in international waters.
– “Territory Invasion” –
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol at a National Security Council meeting regarding North Korea’s missile launch in Seoul on November 2, 2022 (Office of the South Korean President/Handbook)
According to the South Korean military, this is the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean missile has completed its course so close to the South’s territorial waters.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said Wednesday that the shooting was “a true territorial invasion.”
Pyongyang’s show of force comes at a time when South Korea and the US are conducting their largest-ever air drills in the region.
The South Korean military announced on Thursday that the two allies had decided to extend the drills “in light of recent provocations from the North”.
North Korean Missile Attack (AFP/)
The exercise, dubbed “Vigilant Storm,” worries Pyongyang because it mobilizes F-35A and F-35B stealth fighters, according to analysts.
Kim Jong Un’s regime’s devices “could be used in beheading operations,” argued Go Myeong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
During the summer of 2022, reports of US-South Korean training in lightning “decapitation attacks” against North Korean leaders were indeed circulated.
What exacerbates Pyongyang’s fears is that it already sees frequent joint maneuvers between U.S. and South Korean forces as a general rehearsal for an invasion of its territory.
“Vigilante Storm” is “an aggressive and provocative military maneuver targeting the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the North Korean regime condemned on Wednesday, threatening Seoul and Washington with “the most brutal price in history.”
The United States and South Korea have been warning for months that North Korea is about to conduct its seventh nuclear test.
– A nuclear test in the future? –
In late September, Kim Jong Un’s regime adopted a new doctrine declaring the “irreversibility” of the country’s nuclear status, making any future talk of its denuclearization impossible, and reserving the right to conduct preventive strikes.
The declaration was followed in September and October by a long series of missile tests billed by Pyongyang as “tactical nuclear” simulations.
Ahn Chan-il, a researcher specializing in North Korea, predicted that the latest series of firings were “preliminary celebrations for their future nuclear test.” “It looks like a series of practical tests for their tactical nuclear deployment,” he told AFP.
Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on April 26, 2022 (KCNA VIA KNS/STR)
North Korea broke a 2017 self-imposed ban on intercontinental ballistic missile tests last March, but has since suffered a number of setbacks.
In March, the Hwasong-17, believed to be the most powerful ICBM developed by Pyongyang to date, exploded shortly after launch and a fireball was seen in the sky above the northern capital. In May, the South Korean military announced that an ICBM launch had failed.
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