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North Korea launches 2 missiles at sea as US and South hold drills


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday in another show of force after the United States and South Korea began military drills that Pyongyang sees as a rehearsal for an invasion. , said his neighbors.

The missiles were launched from the southwestern coastal city of Jangyon and flew over North Korea before landing at sea off that country’s east coast, the joint chiefs of staff said. South Korean joint forces in a statement. He also said the South Korean military has strengthened its surveillance posture and maintained preparedness in close coordination with the United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that officials were still gathering details of the North Korean launches and there were no immediate reports of damage in Japanese waters.

Pyongyang could further step up its weapons testing over the next few days in a tit-for-tat response to allied military drills, which are scheduled to run until March 23. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his troops to be ready to repel what he called “frenzied war-preparation moves” by his country’s rivals.

Concerns over North Korea’s nuclear program rose sharply after the North tested a barrage of missiles last year, many of them nuclear-capable, and openly threatened to use them in potential conflicts with states. United States and South Korea.

North Korea appears to be using the stalled talks with the United States and the expansion of US-South Korean exercises as a chance to expand its weapons arsenals to increase its influence in future relations with the United States. United.

North Korean threats, along with China’s growing assertiveness, have prompted the United States to seek to strengthen its alliances with South Korea and Japan. But some experts say stronger Washington-Seoul-Tokyo cooperation could spur Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow to strengthen their own trilateral ties. China and Russia, embroiled in separate confrontations with the United States, have repeatedly blocked offers from the United States and its allies to toughen UN sanctions against North Korea.

On Monday, North Korea said it tested two cruise missiles from a submarine. It implied cruise missiles were being developed to carry nuclear warheads and claimed the latest test checked the country’s “nuclear war deterrence” posture.

North Korea’s acquisition of submarine-launched missile systems would be an alarming development, as the launches would be harder to detect and provide the North with a second retaliatory attack capability. However, experts say it would take years, considerable resources and major technological upgrades for the heavily sanctioned nation to build a fleet of submarines that could travel quietly and execute strikes reliably.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Monday that North Korea had refined its submarine launch capabilities since its first test in 2016 and that the United States was studying Sunday’s launches to assess what ‘they mean in terms of the capabilities of the North.

“But of course, we’re not going to let any action taken by North Korea deter us or prevent us from taking the actions we believe are necessary to safeguard stability on the Korean Peninsula,” Sullivan said.

Joint U.S.-South Korean exercises that began on Monday include computer simulations involving North Korean aggression and other security scenarios and field exercises. The field drills would revert to the scale of larger allied spring exercises that last took place in 2018, according to South Korean defense officials.

Both countries have expanded their exercises since last year as North Korea tested more than 70 missiles in 2022. These included intercontinental ballistic missiles with potential range to reach the American mainland and nuclear-capable missiles at close range that could target South Korea.

In phone calls on Monday, top South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys stressed that North Korea would face unspecified consequences for its provocations. They also urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and instead look after the livelihoods of its people, saying its decades-long preoccupation with nuclear weapons has caused its current economic hardship and food shortage, according to Seoul Foreign Ministry.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.