South Korea and the US have test-fired a volley of missiles as a show of strength to Kim Jong Un after the North tested eight of its own rockets on Saturday.
Seoul said one US missile and seven Korean missiles were fired from an unspecified base in the northeast of the country into the East Sea in a volley that lasted 10 minutes and began around 4.45am local time Sunday.
American commanders said the drill was designed to show the allies are ready to quickly respond to ‘crisis events’, and came just hours after North Korea tested eight of its own short-range missiles in one of its biggest launches in recent months.
Dictator Kim Jong Un is in the midst of a slew of attention-grabbing weapons launches that the US and South Korea believe could culminate in the country’s first nuclear test since 2017.
It is thought the despot is trying to ramp up pressure in order to restart negotiations over his nuclear stockpile from a position of strength – hoping to get sanctions relief and security guarantees in return for commitments to give up his nukes.
An M270 rocket launcher fires and Army Tactical Missile from a base in the northeast of South Korea into the East Sea in a test on Sunday
South Korea and the US said one American missile and seven Korean were launched as part of drill to show they are ready to respond to ‘crisis event’
Such talks had begun under President Donald Trump, but fizzled out after the pair failed to reach agreement at a summit in Hanoi in 2019 before Trump lost the subsequent election to Joe Biden.
America and South Korea launched Army Tactical Missile Systems from M270 rocket launchers during their test.
The missiles can range up to 200 miles and are designed to carry out precision strikes on high-value targets deep within enemy territory.
‘Our military strongly condemns the North’s series of ballistic missile provocations and sternly urges it to immediately stop acts that raise military tensions on the peninsula,’ the US Joint Chiefs of Staff added.
Monday’s launches are the second such joint show of force by the allies under South Korea’s hawkish new President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed a tougher stance against Pyongyang.
‘Our government will respond decisively and sternly to any provocations from North Korea,’ Yoon said Monday during a speech on Memorial Day.
Last month, Seoul and Washington carried out combined launches after Pyongyang fired three ballistic missiles – including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile – in their first such joint move since 2017.
The US-Korean volley (pictured) was designed as a show of strength to Kim Jong Un, who had tested eight of his own rockets just hours earlier
South Korea fires an Army Tactical Missile from an M270 launcher into its East Sea in the early hours of Sunday morning
Pyongyang has doubled down on upgrading its weapons programme, despite facing crippling economic sanctions, with officials and analysts warning that the regime is preparing to carry out a fresh nuclear blast at its underground testing site.
On Sunday, North Korea fired a rapid volley of eight missiles over the space of 35 minutes from bases on its west and east coasts, along with two sites near the capital.
It was North Korea’s 18th round of missile tests in 2022 alone. North Korean state media have yet to comment on Sunday’s launches.
They came after the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan concluded a three-day naval drill with South Korea in the Philippine Sea on Saturday.
The exercise was the first since November 2017, as the countries move to upgrade their defences in the face of North Korean threats.
North Korea views joint drills between the US and South Korea as rehearsals for an invasion, and often responds with missile launches.
The US has vowed to push for additional international sanctions if North Korea conducts a nuclear test, but the prospects for meaningful new punitive measures are dim with the UN Security Council’s permanent members divided.
Kim Jong Un (pictured in April this year) has been ramping up missile tests in an effort to pressure South Korea and the US into negotiations over its nuclear stockpile
Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that would have imposed additional sanctions on North Korea over its latest ballistic tests on May 25, insisting that Washington should instead focus on reviving negotiations with Pyongyang.
Those talks have stalled since 2019 over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling US-led sanctions for the North’s disarmament steps.
Despite facing harsh challenges at home, including a decaying economy and a Covid-19 outbreak, Mr Kim has shown no willingness to fully surrender an arsenal he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s offers for open-ended talks and is clearly intent on converting the dormant denuclearisation negotiations into a mutual arms-reduction process, experts say.
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