US and South Korea fire ballistic missiles to warn North Korea

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TOKYO — The U.S. and South Korean militaries tested eight ballistic missiles on Monday, matching North Korea’s weapons tests the previous day, in a stern show of force marking the hardening line toward Pyongyang.

Korean U.S. forces and the South Korean military fired one U.S. missile and seven South Korean missiles east into the sea to demonstrate the countries’ ability to “quickly respond to crisis events,” the U.S. said on Monday. US army.

North Korea fired a battery of eight short-range missiles on Sunday as it continues to build and test new weapons to evade existing missile defense systems.

It was the 18th round of missile launches in 2022 alone. Pyongyang has carried out an unprecedented number of tests, in line with leader Kim Jong Un’s five-year plan for the program.

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“The combined South Korea-US firing of surface-to-surface missiles demonstrated the capability and posture to launch immediate precision strikes on the origins of provocations, even as North Korea launches missiles from various locations.” , said the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. Monday.

Monday’s response from the United States and South Korea underscores the countries’ intention to act alongside North Korea’s missile tests – a change since the inauguration of South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol , which has pledged to take a tougher approach to the North than its pro-engagement predecessor.

“Even right now, North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are becoming sophisticated,” Yoon said Monday. North Korea’s nuclear and missile [programs] rise to the level of threatening not only peace on the Korean peninsula but also in Northeast Asia and the world.

US and South Korean militaries launched Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) surface-to-surface missiles from Gangwon Province in northeastern South Korea, firing eight missiles in 10 minutes at from 4:45 a.m., the South Korean military said.

North Korea fired eight suspected ballistic missiles eastward into the ocean on Sunday in the space of 35 minutes starting at 9:08 a.m. from four locations on Sunday, the South Korean military said.

In response, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces held a joint military exercise with the United States on Sunday. Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea’s actions “cannot be tolerated”.

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North Korea has yet to release information on its latest launch. The reclusive country has halted regular reporting of its missile tests in recent weeks.

Last week, the U.S. and South Korean militaries staged a three-day naval exercise in international waters off Okinawa aimed at bolstering the allies’ response to North Korea’s growing weapons ambitions, it said. said the South Korean military.

The joint exercise was the first in more than four years, underscoring the Yoon government’s efforts to align closely with the United States on issues related to North Korea. Pyongyang views the drills as “hostile” acts against the country and cites them as reasons to continue developing its weapons capabilities.

Intelligence officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan said North Korea appears to have completed preparations for its seventh nuclear test, which would be the first since 2017.

Officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan met in Seoul on Friday to strengthen ties amid signs of an upcoming nuclear test. The United States has proposed tougher sanctions against North Korea for its violations of UN Security Council resolutions banning ballistic missile testing.

Relations between the United States and North Korea have remained at an impasse since 2019, when nuclear talks collapsed.

So far, the Biden administration has shown no willingness to grant North Korea the sanctions relief it seeks. Yoon said “the ball is in Chairman Kim’s court” to restart negotiations. Kim has indicated no desire to engage with either country in the absence of sanctions relief.

Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.

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