North Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles in Warning to US, South Korea Over Military Drills
North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Monday morning, following a long-range ballistic missile test on Saturday into the sea off Japan's west coast. The test was a warning to the United States and South Korea over planned military drills.
Leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, had warned of “unprecedentedly strong responses” to the drills if they went ahead. The North Korean state news agency said the Saturday missile test was proof of Pyongyang’s ability to launch a “fatal nuclear counterattack” on hostile forces.
The missile flew for 1 hour, 6 minutes and 55 seconds, as high as 5,768 km (3,584 miles), before accurately hitting a pre-set area 989 km (614 miles) away in open waters. Japan said the missile had plunged into waters inside its exclusive economic zone.
In 2020, North Korea, which has nuclear weapons, launched an extraordinary amount of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with the potential to hit any part of the United States. Additionally, the country resumed preparation for its first nuclear test since 2017. South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said Saturday's launch “clearly” signals the North's intent to conduct additional provocations, noting that if North Korea conducts the seventh nuclear test, “it will be a game changer in a sense that North Korea could develop and deploy tactical nuclear missiles.”
The missile launch was conducted on an “emergency firepower combat standby order” given at dawn, followed by a written order from Kim Jong Un at 8 a.m. (2300 GMT on Friday), KCNA said. The military unit got an “excellent mark” over the drill and the North's ruling party “highly appreciated the actual war capacity of the ICBM units which are ready for mobile and mighty counterattack,” KCNA said.
In accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapon programs are prohibited. However, Pyongyang claims that the development of its weapons is necessary to combat the “hostile policies” of the United States and its allies. Ankit Panda, a missile expert at the Washington–based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted that the exercise was ordered day-of, without warning to the crew involved, with the amount of time between the order and the launch likely to be decreased with additional testing.
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