KIM TONG-HYUNG

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile towards its eastern seas on Sunday, extending a provocative armament test streak as an American aircraft carrier visits South Korea for a joint military exercise in response to the growing North nuclear threat.

Joint South Korean chiefs of staff said the missile fired from the western inland city of Taechon flew 600 kilometers (370 miles) across a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers (37 miles) before landing in waters off North Korea’s east coast.

The South Korean presidential office said National Security Director Kim Sung-han called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, during which members denounced the opening of the meeting as a clear violation of a UN Security Council resolution and accused the North of increasing tensions in the region.

US Indo-Pacific Command stated that the launch was not “a direct threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies,” but continued to emphasize the destabilizing effects of North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The launch came when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and his strike group arrived in South Korea for a joint military exercise by the two countries to show their strength in the face of growing North Korean threats.

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that its nuclear envoy Kim Gunn has held phone calls with Sung Kim, Special Representative for US President Joe Biden in North Korea, and Funakoshi Takehiro, CEO for Asia and Oceania at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss tripartite cooperation. North Korean threats.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a statement that Tokyo “is doing everything in its power” to gather information on the North Korean launch and confirm the safety of ships and planes, although there have been no immediate reports of damage.

The North Korean threat is also expected to be a key program when US Vice President Kamala Harris visits South Korea next week after attending the state funeral of the killed former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

North Korea accelerated its test operations at record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first ICBM since 2017. North Korea is taking advantage of the division in the UN Security Council that has deepened with Russia’s war against Ukraine to accelerate the development of armaments.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un repeated threats in his weapons tests that the North would actively use its nuclear weapons in case of danger, increasing concerns for the safety of its conventionally armed rival South Korea.

Flight details announced by the Seoul military suggest that North Korea may have tested a nuclear-capable short-range weapon modeled on the Russian Iskander missiles that travel at relatively low altitudes and are designed to be maneuverable in flight, making them difficult to intercept by missile defense.

Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said it was worth noting that the missile flew 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the Taechon launch point – roughly the distance to the southern port of Busan in South Korea, where Reagan arrived on Friday.

The Iskander missiles are part of a growing arsenal of short-range solid fuel systems that North Korea has been developing since 2019. small nuclear b*mbs on the battlefield and use them proactively in conflicts to obliterate the stronger conventional forces of South Korea and the United States, which are stationed in the south of some 28,500 troops.

North Korea has so far rejected US and South Korean calls for a return to nuclear diplomacy, which have stalled since 2019 due to disagreements over US-led sanctions against the North and its disarmament measures.

USS Reagan’s arrival in South Korea came after Kim told Pyongyang’s parliament earlier this month that he would never abandon his nuclear weapons and the missiles he needs to counter what he sees as US hostility.

Kim’s speech came as North Korean lawmakers passed a law that sanctified his status as a nuclear power and authorized the preventive use of nuclear weapons in a wide range of scenarios where the country or his leadership is at risk, setting out an escalating nuclear doctrine.

Speaking to US and South Korean troops aboard the Reagan on Saturday, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said sending US strategic assets to the region showed the US’s unwavering commitment to defending South Korea. He said the North would face an overwhelming response if it tried to use nuclear weapons, according to a statement by his ministry.

A more provocative weapon demonstration could soon follow Sunday’s test, as South Korean officials said they had detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test a missile system designed to be launched from submarines. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s office said Saturday that it had been briefed on such events before returning home from a visit to Canada.

On Wednesday 38 North, a website focused on North Korea, said its analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows many barges and other vessels gathered in the eastern port of Sinpo, where North Korea has a large submarine-building shipyard. The report said the North was probably getting ready to launch a new ballistic missile-launching submarine.

North Korea is pushing hard to launch nuclear-armed missiles from submarines. Such a weapon would theoretically enhance North Korea’s deterrence by providing retaliation after absorbing the land-based nuclear att*ck.

Ballistic missile submarines would also pose a new naval threat to the growing North’s growing collection of solid fuel weapons launched from land vehicles that are being developed with the express purpose of overwhelming missile defense systems in South Korea and Japan.

However, experts say a severely sanctioned nation would need significantly more time, resources, and major technological improvements to build at least a few submarines that could safely travel the seas and launch att*cks reliably.

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Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press writer, contributed to the Tokyo story.

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