North Korea fires missiles, Japan condemns provocation

SEUL, June 5 (Reuters) – North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles at sea off its east coast, probably its largest individual test, on Sunday, a day after South Korea and the United States they would end joint military exercises.

Bilateral exercises involved an American aircraft carrier for the first time in more than four years.

At least eight missiles were fired from the Sunan area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNorth Korea’s capital Pyongyang, South Korea’s joint staff said.

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Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi also said the north had fired multiple missiles and that the act “cannot be tolerated.” He said in a briefing that at least one missile had a variable trajectory, indicating that it could maneuver to evade missile defenses.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that North Korea’s multiple ballistic missile launches revealed the destabilizing impact of its illicit weapons program, but that the event was not a immediate threat.

Michael Duitsman, with the US-based James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies (CNS), said it appeared to be the largest individual test North Korea has ever taken. A large number of missiles also suggest a military drill or show of strength, rather than a test of new technology.

The launch also followed a visit to Seoul by US Special Representative Sung Kim, who left on Saturday.

He met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts Kim Gunn and Takehiro Funakoshi on Friday to prepare for “all contingencies” amid signals that North Korea was preparing to conduct a nuclear test for the first time. since 2017. read more

Washington has made it very clear directly to Pyongyang that it is open to diplomacy, Kim said during the visit, noting that it was willing to discuss issues of interest to Pyongyang, such as easing sanctions.

Last week, the United States called for more UN sanctions on North Korea for its ballistic missile launches, but China and Russia vetoed the suggestion, publicly dividing the UN Security Council on North Korea. for the first time since it began punishing it in 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

In recent weeks, North Korea has tested a number of missiles, including its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea’s latest tests were on May 25, when it fired three missiles after US President Joe Biden ended a trip to Asia where he accepted new measures to deter the state with nuclear weapons.

The first missile appeared to be the largest ICBM in the North, the Hwasong-17, while an unspecified second missile appeared to have failed mid-flight, South Korean officials said at the time. The third missile was a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).

On Saturday, South Korean and U.S. ships concluded three days of drilling in international waters off the Japanese island of Okinawa, which included air defense, anti-ship, anti-submarine and maritime ban operations, the chief said. of the General Staff of South Korea.

Exercises included the USS Ronald Reagan, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, among other large warships.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office on May 10, had agreed with Biden to increase bilateral military exercises to deter North Korea.

North Korea has criticized previous joint exercises as an example of Washington’s continued “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang, despite talking about diplomacy.

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Report by Byungwook Kim and Josh Smith; Additional report by Junko Fujita in Tokyo; Editing by Leslie Adler, Lisa Shumaker and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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