SEOUL, May 25 (BNA): North Korea launched three missiles, including one believed to be the largest intercontinental ballistic missile, after US President Joe Biden ended a trip to Asia during which he agreed to new measures to deter the nuclear-armed country. .
South Korea’s deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, said North Korea appeared to have conducted “multiple tests” of an explosive device in preparation for its seventh nuclear test, but that the test was unlikely to happen “in the coming days.” But then.”
In response, the US and South Korea conducted live-fire exercises, including surface-to-surface missile tests involving the US Army’s Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Hyunmoo-2 SRBM in the south, the two militaries said, Reuters reports. .
The South Korean Defense Minister called for the deployment of US strategic assets and the two sides agreed to strengthen the expanded US deterrence to counter North Korea’s provocations, the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“The show of force presented by our military was intended to highlight our determination to respond firmly to any North Korean provocations, including the launch of ICBMs, and our formidable capacity and readiness to deliver a surgical strike on the origin of the provocation.” Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to test launches of its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time in nearly five years. It also appears to be preparing for what will be its first nuclear test since 2017.
Officials in Washington and Seoul recently warned that North Korea appeared ready for another weapons test, possibly during Biden’s visit, which was his first trip to Asia as president and included a summit with South Korean President Yun Suk-yul in Seoul.
On Wednesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the three missiles were launched in less than an hour from the Sunan area of the North’s capital, Pyongyang, whose international airport has become a missile testing center.
South Korea’s deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, said the first missile appeared to be North Korea’s largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17, while an unidentified second missile appeared to have failed mid-flight. He said the third missile is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), a test seen as aimed at improving its ability to deliver nuclear weapons.
A military source in Seoul told Reuters he believed the second and third missiles were the KN-23 SRBM, which were first tested in 2019 and experts said were designed to avoid missile defenses by flying a “low” trajectory.
“We believe it has political intentions to test the security readiness of our new administration… and to send a strategic message to South Korea and the United States after President Biden leaves,” Kim told a news briefing.
A message to the allies
In Seoul over the weekend, Biden and Yun agreed to hold larger military exercises and deploy more US strategic assets if needed to deter North Korea’s extensive weapons tests.
They also offered to send COVID-19 vaccines to North Korea, which is fighting its first confirmed spread, and urged Pyongyang to return to diplomacy. Read more
But Biden said there has been no response from Pyongyang to diplomatic overtures or offers of assistance.
Yoon, who took office on May 10, held his first meeting of the National Security Council, which strongly denounced the latest launch as a “serious provocation,” noting that Biden was on a return trip.
“The continued provocations by North Korea will only lead to stronger and faster deterrence between South Korea and the United States, and will further isolate itself,” Yoon’s government said in a separate statement.
A White House official said Biden, who departed Japan on Tuesday night, was briefed on the launches. A foreign ministry spokesman issued a statement urging North Korea to “refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue.”
South Korean Foreign Ministry Park Jin and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken agreed in a phone call to intensify efforts to bolster expanded deterrence and facilitate a new UN sanctions resolution.
South Korea called Pyongyang’s March Hwasong-17 test a failure, and the launch ended its voluntary 2017 moratorium on long-range missiles and nuclear tests amid stalled denuclearization talks with Washington.
In Wednesday’s test, the suspected ICBM flew 360 km (223.7 miles) to a maximum altitude of 540 km, while the SRBM flew 760 km to a maximum altitude of 60 km, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Japan’s defense minister said Japan had reported at least two launches, one of which flew about 300 kilometers and had a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers, and the other of about 750 kilometers (465 miles) and a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said North Korea may take more provocative measures, including a nuclear test.
The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the “multiple” launches. They highlighted the “destabilizing effect of the DPRK’s illegal weapons program” but did not pose an immediate threat.
The final hours of Biden’s visit to the region also saw Russian and Chinese bombers conduct joint patrols near the Japanese and South Korean air defense zones on Tuesday in an apparent farewell.