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North Korea launches missiles in response to the largest US-South Korean military exercise in years

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Washington DC with kids
(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

North Korea launched cruise and ballistic missiles in response to the start of the largest exercise by the United States and South Korea since 2018. North Korea said that it considers such exercises a prelude to invasion.

The 11-day-long exercise, called Freedom Shield 2023, started on Monday and includes a computer simulation and a field training component called Warrior Shield. In a released joint statement, the two counties said that the exercise aimed to focus on the “changing security environment” caused by North Korea’s continued aggression.

North Korea said it fired two submarine-launched cruise missiles in response, in a drill that was designed to protect the country using “nuclear war deterrence,” implying that the missiles could be armed with nuclear warheads. The launch happened off North Korea’s east coast and the missiles fell into the Sea of Japan. South Korea, however, said it only tracked one missile.

Related: North Korea is developing a HIMARS for nuclear missiles

North Korean state-run KCNA news agency said that the launch showed the country’s resolve to respond with “overwhelmingly powerful” force to the intensifying military maneuvers by the “U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces.”

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said that North Korea will watch “every movement of the enemy and take corresponding and very powerful and overwhelming counteraction against its every move hostile to us.”

North Korea also launched two surface-to-surface tactical ballistic missiles from its west coast. The missiles flew 380 miles before striking a target on a small island off North Korea’s northeast coast. 

Ahead of Freedom Shield, American and South Korean special operations units conducted a joint exercise called Teak Knife, which involved simulating precision strikes on key North Korean facilities.

Most analysts believe that North Korea’s missile launches will only continue for as long as the joint U.S.-South Korean exercises carry on. 

Feature Image: A South Korean soldier briefs U.S. Army Gen Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on points of interest at the demilitarized zone in South Korea, Nov. 11, 2012. (DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen/Released)

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Steve Balestrieri