Pyongyang launches missile into the sea between US and Seoul exercises

FILE – In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a meeting of the Workers’ Party at its headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea, February 26, 2023. There was no access for independent journalists to the event shown in the image. The image is transmitted as received and cannot be independently verified. The Korean watermark is from the Korean Central News Agency. (Korea Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile into the sea on Sunday, its neighbors said, amid a surge in its weapons tests in response to military drills between the United States and South Korea. South considering an invasion trial.

The string of launches showed North Korea’s determination not to back down despite moves by Washington and Seoul, the biggest of their kind in years. But many experts believe the tests are also part of a broader goal of increasing its arsenal of weapons, gaining international recognition as a nuclear state and getting international sanctions on the country lifted.

The missile launched from the northwestern Tongchangri region and flew over the country before landing in waters to the east, according to South Korean and Japanese estimates. The missile traveled about 800 kilometers (500 miles), a distance that suggests the weapon could reach South Korea, they said.

The South Korean military called the repeated ballistic missile tests “a serious provocation” that undermines peace on the Korean Peninsula. It said it would proceed with planned exercises with the United States and stand ready to respond “overwhelmingly” to any North Korean provocation.

Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino said the missile had fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no immediate reports of damage to ships or aircraft in the area. He described the launch as a “threat” to the security of Japan, the region and the international community “which cannot be tolerated at all.”

It appeared the missile had shown an irregular trajectory, he noted. That could be a reference to North Korea’s maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile based on Russia’s Iskander missile.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch did not pose an immediate threat to US soil or its allies. But he noted that the North’s recent releases highlight “the destabilizing impact of its illegal” weapons programs, as well as the “iron” US security commitment to South Korea and Japan.

This is the third North Korean weapons test since the US and South Korean armies began their joint military exercises on Monday.

The exercises, which include computer simulations and field exercises, are scheduled to last until Thursday. These are the largest field exercises of their kind since 2018.

Pyongyang views these moves by Washington and Seoul as invasion training, though the United States and South Korea reiterate that they are defensive in nature.

One of the weapons North Korea has recently tested is a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, its longest-range projectile designed to reach the US mainland. The launch of the MBIC was intended to “sow fear in the enemies,” according to statements by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, quoted by the country’s state media.

The day before they discussed the drills, North Korea also launched cruise missiles from a submarine. That test was a demonstration of North Korea’s determination to respond with “overwhelmingly powerful” force to escalating military maneuvers by “US imperialists and South Korean puppet forces,” according to North Korean state media.


Associated Press writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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