SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea tested a salvo of eight short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea on Sunday, the South Korean military said. culminate in a nuclear test explosion.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the rockets were fired in sequence in more than 35 minutes from the Sunan area near the capital Pyongyang. It did not immediately say how far the missiles flew, but noted that the South Korean military has stepped up its monitoring in case the north fires more missiles.
The launch came a day after the US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan completed a three-day naval exercise with South Korea in the Philippine Sea, apparently their first joint exercise involving an aircraft carrier since November 2017, as the countries continued their defense exercises in the facing increasing North Korean threats.
The launch marked North Korea’s 18th round of missile tests in 2022 alone — a series that has included the first intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrations in nearly five years — as it continues to leverage a favorable environment to advance weapons development with the UN Security Council. help divided over the Russian war against Ukraine.
Experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s drive is aimed at forcing the United States to accept the idea of the North as a nuclear power and negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
South Korean and US officials say there are signs that North Korea is also continuing preparations at its nuclear testing site in the northeastern city of Punggye-ri. The North’s next nuclear test would be the seventh since 2006 and the first since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear bomb that would fit its ICBMs.
On Friday, US President Joe Biden’s special envoy to North Korea, Sung Kim, said Washington is “preparing for any unforeseen circumstances” working closely with its Asian allies as he participated in a trilateral meeting in Seoul with its South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the nuclear standoff with North Korea.
The United States has vowed to push for additional international sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, but prospects for further action by the UN Security Council look bleak.
Russia and China vetoed a US-backed resolution that would have imposed additional sanctions on North Korea for its final ballistic tests on May 25, which the South Korean military said involved an ICBM flown at medium range and two short-range weapons. Those tests came as Biden completed his trip to South Korea and Japan, where he reaffirmed the US commitment to defend both allies against the nuclear threat from the north.
North Korea launched an ICBM nearly straight up at full capacity in March and saw it fly higher and longer than any weapon it had ever tested, demonstrating its potential to reach the entire US mainland.
Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since 2019 over disagreements over the release of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea and the north’s disarmament moves.
Despite mounting economic problems, Kim has shown no willingness to completely give up an arsenal he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival and is clearly trying to turn the lingering denuclearization talks into a reciprocal arms reduction negotiations with the United States, experts say. .
Kim’s press campaign comes as the country faces a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in its largely unvaccinated autocracy that lacks public health tools.
GAVI, the nonprofit organization that manages the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, said Friday it understands North Korea has accepted an offer of vaccines from ally China and has begun dosing. It’s not immediately clear how many doses of which vaccines the North has received or how the country has rolled them out.
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