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North Korea launches ballistic missiles as US trains with Japan and South Korea

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On Saturday, North Korean military forces launched a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that traveled about 615 miles in about 66 minutes, landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan after flying over the country.

The launch is “an outrageous act that is escalating provocations against the international community as a whole,” Japan’s Prime Minister Fumui Kishida said in response.

A day after the launch, the U.S., South Korea, and Japan held air exercises that included strategic B-1B bombers, F-15, F-16, F-22, and F-35 fighters. Japanese and South Korean fighters flew cover for the U.S. bombers in the exercise. Kishida said that Japan will continue to work with the United States.

“The exercises strengthened the combined operation capability and affirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Korean Peninsula and the implementation of extended deterrence,” the South Korean military said in a statement, emphasizing the “overwhelming” defense capabilities of the joint forces. 

Following the exercises, North Korea fired two more ICBMs that landed inside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Related: North Korea is developing a HIMARS for nuclear missiles

Kim Yo Jong, the North Korean ruler’s sister, warned against any further U.S. exercises.

“We affirm once again that there is no change in our will to make the worst maniacs escalating the tensions pay the price for their action,” Yong said.

“We are carefully examining the influence it would exert on the security of our state,” she added. “The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces’ action character [sic].”

The U.S. has already planned additional exercises in South Korea with ground troops; it has also scheduled a tabletop exercise in Washington to plan a defense after a nuclear attack. 

Research into developing a nuclear weapon started under the rule of Kim Yong Un’s grandfather and father but intensified under his own.

In September, North Korea passed a law that declared that it is now a nuclear weapons state.

North Korea is ramping up its missile tests in order to dissuade the U.S. from deploying F-35 aircraft in South Korea, which North Korean air defenses would have trouble picking up their radar systems.

With the U.S. preoccupied with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, North Korea has pushed the envelope further, yet it has cut back on releasing information about its missile tests.  

Feature Image: North Korean ballistic missiles during its Victory Day parade, July 2013. (Photo by Stefan Krasowski/Wikimedia Commons)

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Steve Balestrieri

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