North Korea resumes missile tests days after South Korea and the United States ended military exercises

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired multiple short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern waters on Monday morning, its neighbors said, days after the end of South Korean-American military exercises which the North considers an invasion rehearsal.

The launches were North Korea’s first known missile test activities in about a month. Outside experts previously predicted that North Korea would expand its series of missile tests and step up its war rhetoric ahead of the US presidential election in November to increase its influence in future diplomacy.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said North Korea fired three missiles, two together at 7:44 a.m. and the other about 37 minutes later. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a parliamentary session that the North Korean missiles fell in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, all outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and that no damage or injuries have been reported.

Kishida denounced North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile tests as acts “that threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and international society.” He said Japan strongly protested North Korea for its testing activities, saying they violated U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting the North from engaging in any ballistic activity.

South Korea’s military said it also detected “several” suspected short-range ballistic launches by North Korea on Monday morning. The Joint Chiefs of Staff called the launches a “clear provocation” that threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula. He said South Korea will maintain its readiness to repel any provocation from North Korea, based on its strong military alliance with the United States.

According to assessments by Japan and South Korea, North Korean missiles fired from its capital region traveled a distance of 300 to 350 kilometers (about 185 to 220 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers (about 30 miles). Observers say the missiles’ engagement ranges indicate they are weapons targeting important installations in South Korea, such as its military headquarters in the central region.

The US State Department condemned the launches, saying they pose a threat to northern neighbors and undermine regional security. A State Department statement said the United States’ commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan remains “unwavering.”

The United States has a total of 80,000 troops in South Korea and Japan, the backbone of its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

During military exercises between South Korea and the United States that ended Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un led a series of military training exercises that involved tanks, artillery cannons and paratroopers and called for greater war fighting capabilities. The 11-day exercises between South Korea and the United States It involved computer-simulated command post training and 48 types of field exercises, double the number conducted last year.

However, the North did not conduct any missile tests during its rivals’ training. Its missile tests are seen as much bigger provocations, as North Korea has been pushing hard to mount nuclear warheads on its missiles aimed at the mainland United States and its allies. Many experts say North Korea already has nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching all of South Korea and Japan, but it does not yet have operational long-range missiles that can strike the continental United States.

Before Monday’s launches, North Korea last conducted missile tests in mid-February by firing cruise missiles into the sea.

Animosity on the Korean Peninsula remains high following North Korea’s barrage of missile tests since 2022. Many of the tests involved nuclear-capable missiles designed to attack South Korea and the US mainland. U.S. and South Korean forces have responded by expanding their training. trilateral exercises and drills involving Japan.

Experts say North Korea likely believes a larger weapons arsenal would increase its influence in future diplomacy with the United States. They say North Korea would like to get broad sanctions relief while maintaining its nuclear weapons.

Concerns about North Korea’s military moves have deepened since Kim pledged in a speech in january rewrite the constitution to eliminate the country’s long-standing goal of seeking peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula and cement South Korea as its “unchanging primary enemy.” He said the new letter must specify that North Korea will annex and subjugate the South if another war breaks out.

Observers say North Korea could launch limited provocations along its tense border with South Korea. But they say the prospects for a large-scale attack by North Korea are slim, as it would know its military is outmatched by U.S. and South Korean forces.


Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.


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