North Korea fires two ballistic missiles, blames US for ‘escalation’

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North Korea fired two ballistic missiles Thursday and claimed its recent blitz of sanctions-busting tests were necessary countermeasures against joint military drills by the United States and South Korea.

As the United Nations Security Council met to discuss Pyongyang’s Tuesday launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, North Korea blamed Washington for “escalating the military tensions on the Korean peninsula”.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have ramped up joint military drills in recent weeks, including large-scale naval manoeuvres and anti-submarine exercises.

That was “expected to further solidify operational capabilities and posture to respond to North Korean missile provocations”, Seoul’s military said.

North Korea’s foreign ministry slammed the move, saying it posed “a serious threat to the stability of the situation on the Korean peninsula”.

It appears to be the first time North Korea has fired missiles from Samsok, an official from Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters.

Tokyo also confirmed the launches, with defence minister Yasukazu Hamada telling reporters that it was important not to “overlook the significant improvement of (North Korea’s) missile technology”.

They agreed on the need to “deliver a message to the North that consequences follow provocations”, Seoul’s presidential office said in a statement.

Pyongyang’s Tuesday firing of what officials and analysts said was a Hwasong-12 that travelled likely the longest horizontal distance of any North Korean test, prompted the United States to call for the emergency Security Council meeting.

Deputy Chinese ambassador to the UN Geng Shuang said North Korea’s recent launches were “closely related” to military exercises in the region conducted by the United States and its allies.

The launches are part of a record year of weapons tests by isolated North Korea, which leader Kim has declared an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.

The council has been divided on responding to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions for months, with Russia and China on the sympathetic side and the rest of the council pushing for punishment.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have been warning for months that Pyongyang will also conduct another nuclear test, likely after China’s Party Congress on October 16.

“We are indeed in a cycle of weapons provocations. What’s left, essentially, is an intercontinental ballistic missile test and potentially the long-awaited seventh nuclear test.”

Originally published as North Korea fires two ballistic missiles, blames US for ‘escalation’


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