North Korea fires more missiles, seventh launch in two weeks

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North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea early Sunday, Seoul’s military said, the seventh such launch in two weeks, just hours after a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier wrapped up joint drills off the Korean peninsula.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have ramped up combined naval exercises in recent weeks, infuriating Pyongyang, which sees them as rehearsals for invasion and justifies its blitz of missile launches as necessary “countermeasures”.

South Korea’s military said Sunday it had “detected two short-range ballistic missiles between 0148 and 0158 (1648-1658 GMT) fired from the Munchon area in Kangwon province towards the East Sea”, referring to the body of water also known as the Sea of Japan.

Tokyo also confirmed the launches, with the coast guard saying the missiles had landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Seoul said last month it had detected signs the North was preparing to fire an SLBM, a weapon Pyongyang last tested in May.

– Drills, drills, drills –

“The Kim regime is trying to coerce Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to abandon their trilateral security cooperation.”

The recent spate of launches is part of a record year of weapons tests by isolated North Korea, which leader Kim Jong Un last month declared an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.

On Thursday, Seoul’s military said it had scrambled 30 fighter jets after 12 North Korean warplanes staged a rare formation flight and apparent air-to-surface firing drills.

“North Korea is trying to give equivalence through its continued missile launches,” he told AFP.

Analysts say Pyongyang is emboldened to continue its weapons testing, confident that gridlock at the United Nations will protect it from further sanctions.

But at the meeting, North Korea’s longtime ally and economic benefactor China blamed Washington for provoking the spate of launches, with Deputy Chinese Ambassador to the UN Geng Shuang accusing the United States of “poisoning the regional security environment”.

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.

“So we’re not likely to see Moscow or Beijing supporting the US on the North Korea issue anytime soon,” she said.

“A flurry of missile tests like the one we’ve seen could indicate a build-up to a nuclear test, but predicting the timing with any precision is quite challenging,” US-based security analyst Ankit Panda told AFP.

Originally published as North Korea fires more missiles, seventh launch in two weeks


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