North Korea flew 12 warplanes near its border with South Korea on Thursday, prompting South Korea to deploy 30 military aircraft in response, Seoul officials said. The highly unusual incident came hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea in its sixth round of missile tests in less than two weeks.
Eight North Korean fighter jets and four bombers flew in formation. and are believed to have conducted air-to-ground firing exercises, the South Korean military said.
The military said South Korea responded with 30 fighter jets and other warplanes, although they did not clash with North Korean planes.
The North Korean planes were likely tens of kilometers from the border, South Korean media said.
North Korea previously sent military planes near the border, but the Yonhap news agency said this is probably the the first time it has mobilized so many combat aircraft for such a provocative flight and shooting exercises.
Tensions have risen sharply on the Korean peninsula as North Korea’s recent spate of missile tests prompted South Korea, the United States and Japan to hold joint drills in response.
Earlier Thursday, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles to its eastern waters. The launches came after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea’s launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan earlier this week.
North Korea has conducted a record number of missile tests this year. South Korean officials said North Korea could further escalate tensions by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile or carrying out its first nuclear test explosion since 2017, continuing a long-standing pattern of ratcheting up animosities before trying to win outside concessions.
Some experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is determined to expand his nuclear arsenal in defiance of international sanctions. They say North Korea’s goal is to eventually win recognition as a legitimate nuclear state from the United States and the lifting of sanctions, though Washington and its allies have shown no sign of doing so.
The last missiles were released 22 minutes apart from North Korea’s capital region and landed between the Korean peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. The first missile flew 350 kilometers (217 mi) and reached a maximum altitude of 80 kilometers (50 mi) and the second flew 800 kilometers (497 mi) with an apogee of 60 kilometers (37 mi).
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the second missile was possibly launched on an “irregular” trajectory. It is a term that has been used to describe the flight characteristics of a North Korean weapon modeled on Russia‘s Iskander missile, which travels at low altitudes and is designed to be maneuverable in flight to improve its chances of evading missile defenses.
US, South Korean and Japanese destroyers launched joint exercises later Thursday off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula to test their abilities to search for, track and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The US destroyer is part of the strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which returned to the waters in what the South Korean military called an attempt to demonstrate allies’ “strong will” to counter continuous provocations and threats from North Korea.
The strike group was in the area last week as part of earlier exercises between South Korea and the United States, and other allied training involving Japan. North Korea views US-led drills near the peninsula as an invasion rehearsal and considers training involving a US aircraft carrier more provocative.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida spoke by phone on Thursday, agreeing that North Korea’s recent missile tests are “a serious and serious provocation” that threatens international peace, according to Yoon’s office. Kishida said the two reaffirmed the importance of the deterrent capabilities of Japan-US alliances. and South Korea-US, as well as security cooperation between the three countries.
Moon Hong Sik, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, said North Korea’s accelerated tests also reflect the urgency of meeting Kim Jong Un’s weapons development goals.
Last year, Kim outlined an extensive wish list of advanced nuclear weapons systems, including more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, multi-warhead missiles, underwater-launched nuclear missiles and tactical nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, North Korea held its most provocative weapons demonstration since 2017firing an intermediate-range missile over Japan, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and stop trains.
Experts said the weapon was likely a Hwasong-12 missile capable of reaching the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.
Other weapons tested in recent days included Iskander-type missiles and other ballistic weapons designed to attack key targets in South Koreaincluding US military bases there.
North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday that the Reagan strike group’s redeployment 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 tighten sanctions against North Korea over its recent missile tests, which it described as a “fair counter” to joint US exercises. and South Korea.
After North Korea’s intermediate-range missile launch, the United States and South Korea also conducted their own live-fire drills that have so far involved surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and precision-guided bombs launched from fighter jets.
The United States, Great Britain, France, Albania, Norway, and Ireland convened a emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. But Wednesday’s session ended without a consensus, underscoring a split among the council’s permanent members that has been deepened by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Russia and China insisted during the meeting that US-led military exercises in the region had caused North Korea to act.
The United States and its allies expressed concern that the council’s inability to reach a consensus on North Korea’s record number of missile launches this year was emboldening North Korea and undermining the authority of the United Nations’ most powerful body. United.
North Korea has fired 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 against Ukraine as a window to accelerate weapons development.
(with information from AP)
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