North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of Kamala Harris visit

Visitors to a Seoul train station watch news of North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch on Sunday, September 25. A US Navy aircraft carrier arrived this week for exercises with South Korea, and Kamala Harris is due to surrender.

Jung Yeon-i | AFP | Getty Images

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Sunday, ahead of planned military exercises by South Korean and US forces involving an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The South Korean military said it was a single short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area in North Pyongyan province just before 7 a.m. local time, and that it traveled about 600 km (373 miles) at an altitude of 60 km and at a speed of Mach. 5.

“The launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea is a serious provocative act that threatens the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the international community,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. in a press release.

After the launch, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Kim Seung-kyum and Commander of U.S. Forces Korea Paul LaCamera discussed the situation and reaffirmed their willingness to respond to any threats or provocations from North Korea. , he added.

South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss response measures and condemned the launch as an apparent violation of UN Security Council resolutions and an unjustifiable act of provocation.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who arrived in Seoul on Saturday evening after traveling to Britain, the United States and Canada, was briefed on the launch, the presidential office said.

Japan protests

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan believes he reached the maximum altitude at 50 km and may have flown on an irregular path. Hamada said it was outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of navigation or air traffic problems.

Many short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years were designed to evade missile defenses by maneuvering in flight and flying in a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts said.

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“If you include the cruise missile launches, this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented rate. North Korea’s action poses a threat to the peace and security of our country, of the region and the international community and to do so while the invasion of Ukraine is unfolding is unforgivable,” Hamada said, adding that Japan had protested through the North Korean embassy. in Beijing.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said it was aware of the launch and was consulting closely with allies, in a statement released after the launch, while reaffirming US commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan.

“While we have assessed this event as not posing an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the launch of the missile highlights the destabilizing impact of illegal weapons of mass destruction and DPRK ballistic missiles.”

Joint drills

The launch comes after the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in South Korea to participate in joint exercises with South Korean forces, and ahead of a planned visit to Seoul this week by Harris.

It was the first time the North had carried out such a launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day in early June, leading the United States to seek more sanctions for violating Security Council resolutions. the UN.

North Korea rejects UN resolutions as a violation of its sovereign right to self-defense and space exploration, and has criticized previous joint exercises by the United States and South Korea as evidence of their hostile policies.

The drills have also been criticized by Russia and China, which have called on all parties not to take steps that escalate tensions in the region, and called for an easing of sanctions.

After North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests earlier this year, including its intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017, the United States and South Korea said they would strengthen joint exercises and military displays of power to deter Pyongyang.

“Defense drills are not going to prevent North Korean missile testing,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international affairs at Ewha University in Seoul.

But U.S.-South Korean security cooperation helps deter a North Korean attack and counter coercion from Pyongyang, and allies must not let provocations prevent them from conducting military training and exchanges needed to maintain the alliance. , he added.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday that North Korea may also be preparing to test a ballistic missile launched by a submarine, citing the South Korean military.

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