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North Korea test-fires suspected missiles after US and South Korea conduct fighter jet drill

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May 17, 2024

North Korea launched suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Friday, South Korea’s military said, a day after the U.S. and South Korea conducted a joint military exercise. 

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired from North Korea’s east coast Wonsan region and traveled about 185 miles before landing in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said a North Korean missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Associated Press.

The missile test, which South Korea called “a clear provocation,” came one day after the U.S. and South Korea flew fighter jets in a joint drill that North Korea has called a major security threat.

The statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said South Korea will maintain a firm readiness to repel potential Aggressions by North Korea in conjunctions with military assistance from the United States.

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North Korea has extended its run of weapons testing in recent months as part of its efforts to enlarge and modernize its arsenal, while diplomacy with the United States and South Korea remains stalled. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test firing of a new multiple rocket launch system, according to the North’s state media.

North Korea says it has been forced to boost its nuclear and missile programs to deal with U.S.-led hostilities. North Korea cites expanded U.S.-South Korean military training, which it calls an invasion rehearsal. Many foreign experts say North Korea uses its rivals’ military drills as a pretext for building a larger weapons arsenal in the belief that it would boost its leverage in future diplomacy with the U.S.

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The joint military exercise on Thursday involved two South Korean F-35As and two U.S. F-22 Raptors that flew over the central region of South Korea, the Associated Press reported.

North Korean state media said Friday the deployment of U.S. F-22s to South Korea, the first in seven months, is “another clear proof of the hostile nature of the U.S.” which seeks “a showdown of force” with North Korea. The official Korean Central News Agency, a mouthpiece for North Korea’s government, accused “the military gangsters” in South Korea of intensifying tensions to keep pace with “their master’s confrontation scheme” against the North.

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KCNA warned that F-22 flyovers “will only precipitate the advent of a situation that the U.S. does not want to see.” But the warning carried no specifics. 

In a statement Friday, Kim’s sister and senior official Kim Yo Jang said North Korea’s recent weapons tests were part of a five-year arms buildup plan started in 2021. She said the ballistic missiles tested Friday are designed to attack South Korea’s capital of Seoul and denied outside speculation that the tests were meant to demonstrate weapons that North Korea intends to sell to Russia.

“We don’t conceal the fact that such weapons will be used to prevent Seoul from inventing any idle thinking,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement reported by KCNA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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