North Korea fires ballistic missile towards sea, South Korea says

The launch comes days after North Korea warned any move to shoot down one of its test missiles would be considered a ‘declaration of war’.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023
North Korea has framed its missile tests and military drills as justified countermeasures following US-South Korea drills [File: Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo]

South Korea’s military says it has detected that North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile towards waters off its western coast.

The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapon was fired at about 6:20pm on Thursday from an area near the western coastal city of Nampo. It did not immediately release an assessment of how far the missile flew.

The launch came after Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned on Tuesday that her country is ready to take “quick, overwhelming action” against the United States and South Korea as the allies expand their military training to cope with a growing North Korean nuclear threat.

The US and South Korea will conduct large-scale military exercises known as the “Freedom Shield” drills for at least 10 days starting on March 13.

“Since September 2022, North Korea has timed its missile launches and military demonstrations to counter US-South Korea exercises probably to attempt to coerce the United States and South Korea to change their behaviour,” US intelligence agencies said in a threat assessment report on Wednesday.

North Korea has framed its missile tests and military drills as justified countermeasures following the US-South Korea drills.

The US deployed a nuclear capable B-52 bomber for a joint drill with South Korean fighter jets on Monday in what South Korea’s defence ministry said was a show of force against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Escalating tensions

After talks between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed in 2019, diplomacy has stalled and the North has doubled down on military development.

South Korea’s hawkish President Yoon Suk-yeol has moved to boost diplomatic ties and security cooperation with Tokyo and Washington in response to growing threats from Pyongyang.

US President Joe Biden will host Yoon for a state visit on April 26, and the South Korean leader will also visit Tokyo next week, his office said.

This month’s joint US-South Korean drills will be the largest military drills by the countries in five years.

“This is likely only the beginning of a series of provocative tests by North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, according to AFP news agency.

“Pyongyang is poised to respond aggressively to major US-South Korea defence exercises, as well as to President Yoon’s upcoming summits with (Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden),” he said.

Source: News Agencies