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US and South Korea fire missiles at sea matching North’s launches

SEOUL – The US and South Korean militaries launched eight ballistic missiles into the sea on Monday in a show of force that matched a North Korean missile display the day before and extended a provocative series of weapons demonstrations.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the allied live-fire exercise included eight missiles from the army’s tactical missile system, which were fired into South Korea’s eastern waters over a 10-minute period. It said the exercise is aimed at demonstrating the ability to respond quickly and accurately to North Korean attacks.

The southern military discovered Sunday that North Korea fired eight short-range missiles over a 35-minute period from at least four different locations, including western and eastern coastal areas and two inland areas north and near the capital Pyongyang, in what appears to be a daily record for the ballistic launches in the country.

It was North Korea’s 18th round of missile tests in 2022 alone — a streak that included the country’s first launch of ICBMs in nearly five years. South Korean and US officials also say North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, while leader Kim Jong Un makes a risky attempt to cement the North’s status as a nuclear power and make economic and security concessions from a position of strength to negotiate

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US and South Korean forces conducted a similar live-fire exercise following North Korea’s previous ballistic launches on May 25, which the South Korean military said involved a medium-trajectory ICBM and two short-range weapons. Those tests came as Biden completed his trip to South Korea and Japan, where he reaffirmed US commitments to defending both allies.

North Korean state media have yet to comment on Sunday’s launches. They came after U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan completed a three-day naval exercise with South Korea in the Philippine Sea on Saturday, apparently their first joint exercise with a carrier since November 2017 as the countries ramp up their defense drills in the face of North Korean threats.

North Korea has long condemned the allies’ combined military exercises as invasion rehearsals, often countering it with its own missile exercises, including short-range launches in 2016 and 2017 that simulated nuclear strikes on South Korean ports and US military installations in Japan.

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Hours after the North Korean launches, Japan and the United States conducted a joint ballistic missile exercise aimed at demonstrating their “rapid response capability” and “strong determination” to counter threats, Japan’s defense ministry said.

The United States has promised to push for additional international sanctions if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, but prospects for any meaningful new sanctions are slim as permanent members of the UN Security Council are divided.

Russia and China vetoed a US-backed resolution that would have imposed additional sanctions on North Korea over its latest ballistic tests on May 25, insisting Washington should instead focus on resuming negotiations with Pyongyang.

Those talks have stalled since 2019 over disagreements over swapping the lifting of crippling US-led sanctions over the North’s disarmament moves.

Despite tough challenges at home, including a declining economy and a COVID-19 outbreak, Kim has shown no willingness to completely abandon an arsenal he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

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His administration has so far rejected offers from the Biden administration for open talks and is clearly intent on turning dormant denuclearization talks into a mutual arms reduction process, experts say.

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/06/us-s-korea-fire-missiles-to-sea-matching-norths-launches/ US and South Korea fire missiles at sea matching North’s launches

Sarah Y. Kim

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