SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea says North Korea flew 12 warplanes near their shared border on Thursday, prompting South Korea to launch 30 military planes in response.
According to the South Korean military, eight North Korean fighter jets and four bombers flew in formation. The North Korean planes are said to have conducted air-to-ground firing exercises.
South Korea is said to have responded by scrambling 30 fighter jets.
Earlier, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles at its eastern waters, and South Korea conducted naval exercises with the United States and Japan off the east coast of the Korean peninsula in response.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story is below:
North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Thursday after the United States launched an aircraft carrier near the Korean peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s earlier launch of an aircraft carrier Nuclear-capable missile over Japan.
Recent missile launches suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is determined to proceed with weapons tests aimed at boosting his nuclear arsenal, despite international sanctions. Many experts say Kim’s goal is to get US recognition as a legitimate nuclear state and the lifting of those sanctions, although the United States and its allies have shown no signs that this would happen.
The latest missiles were fired 22 minutes apart from the north’s capital region and landed between the Korean peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The first rocket flew 350 kilometers (217 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 miles) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 miles) at an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 miles).
The flight details were similar to Japanese assessments announced by Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, who confirmed the missiles did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
He added that the second missile may have been launched on an “irregular” trajectory. It’s a term used to describe the flight characteristics of a North Korean weapon modeled after the Russian Iskander missile, which travels at low altitudes and is designed to be maneuverable in flight to improve its odds to evade anti-missile defenses.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese destroyers later on Thursday launched joint drills off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula to test their capabilities to search, track and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The US destroyer is part of the strike force led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which returned to the waters in a bid to demonstrate the Allies’ “firm will” to counter North’s continued provocations and threats, causing the South Korean military designated as an attempt.
The strike force was in the area last week as part of previous drills between South Korea and the United States and other allied training involving Japan. North Korea regards such US-led drills near the peninsula as an invasion rehearsal and considers training with a US aircraft carrier more provocative.
The South Korean military said it has also strengthened its surveillance position and is maintaining readiness in close coordination with the United States. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launches posed no immediate threat to the United States or its allies but nonetheless highlighted the “destabilizing effect” of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone Thursday and agreed that North Korea’s recent missile tests are “a serious, serious provocation” that threatens international peace.
According to Yoon’s office, the two leaders also decided to work together to firmly counter North Korean provocations. Kishida previously said the North’s continued launches were “absolutely unbearable.”
The launches marked North Korea’s sixth round of weapons tests in less than two weeks and added to a record number of missile launches this year that has led to condemnation from the United States and other countries. South Korean officials said the North could soon up the ante by testing an ICBM or conducting its first nuclear test blast since 2017, escalating an old pattern of rising tensions before attempting to force outside concessions.
Moon Hong Sik, a spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said North Korea’s accelerated testing also reflects the urgency of meeting Kim Jong Un’s weapons development goals.
Kim last year outlined an extensive wish-list of advanced nuclear weapons systems, including more powerful ICBMs, multi-warhead missiles, underwater-launched nuclear missiles and tactical nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, North Korea staged its most provocative arms demonstration since 2017 when it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation warnings and halt trains.
Experts said the weapon is likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific area of Guam and beyond.
Other weapons tested in recent days have included Iskander-like missiles and other ballistic weapons designed to hit key targets in South Korea, including US military bases there.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the Reagan strike group’s relocation poses “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on and around the Korean Peninsula.” The ministry said it strongly condemned US-led efforts at the UN Security Council to step up sanctions on the North over its recent missile tests, which it called a “just countermeasure” to joint US-South Korean exercises.
After launching the North’s intermediate-range missile, the United States and South Korea also conducted their own live-fire exercises, which have hitherto involved land-to-land ballistic missiles and precision-guided bombs dropped by fighter jets.
But one of the tit-for-tat launches nearly caused disaster early Wednesday when a Malfunction of South Korea’s Hyumoo-2 missile reversed shortly after takeoff and crashed into the ground at an air force base in the eastern coastal city of Gangneung. According to the South Korean military, no one was injured.
Following North Korea’s launch on Tuesday, the United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting. But Wednesday’s session ended with no consensus, This underscores a rift among the council’s permanent members that has deepened over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Russia and China told other Security Council members during the meeting that US-led military exercises in the region had provoked North Korea into action.
The United States and its allies have expressed concern that the Council’s inability to reach consensus on North Korea’s record number of missile launches this year emboldens North Korea and undermines the authority of the United Nations’ most powerful body.
North Korea has launched more than 40 ballistic and cruise missiles in more than 20 launch events this year, using stalled diplomacy with the United States and Russia’s war on Ukraine as a window to accelerate weapons development.
(Copyright (c) 2022 Sunbeam Television. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.)
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