North Korea fires ballistic missile as U.S.-South Korea drills continue

A TV screen shows archival images of a North Korean missile launch during a news program at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, March 19.An Yongjun/Associated Press

South Korea and Japan said North Korea on Sunday fired a short-range ballistic missile into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, the latest in a series of tests by the nuclear-armed nation since the start of this year.

The missile was launched from the Dongchang-ri launch site on the west coast at around 11:05 a.m. (0205 GMT) and hit its target after flying about 800 kilometers, a South Korean military statement said. Japan’s defense ministry said the missile flew at an altitude of up to 50 kilometers.

Shortly after Sunday’s launch, South Korea’s defense ministry said the United States had deployed a B-1B strategic bomber to participate in a joint air exercise that Seoul and Washington said they were holding to bolster deterrence.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing the military, reported that the deployment of the bombers was planned in advance and had nothing to do with North Korea’s recent launch.

Japan and the United States also conducted joint air and sea military exercises in the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Sunday, local Japanese media reported.

Seoul condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launch as a “clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions.

In a statement on Sunday, G7 foreign ministers said they “deeply regret” the inaction by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) against North Korea due to “obstruction” by some members.

No country was named, but China and Russia blocked attempts by the United Nations to respond to North Korea’s series of missile tests.

The launches drew criticism from Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.

“North Korea’s actions threaten international peace and security and are unacceptable,” Japanese Defense Minister Toshiro Ino told a news conference, adding that Japan had lodged a strong protest through the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said Sunday’s launch posed no immediate threat to U.S. personnel or their allies. But it said in a statement that the missile launch highlighted the destabilizing impact of Pyongyang’s illicit weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before the South Korean president flew to Tokyo for a summit to discuss ways to confront North Korea.

Pyongyang said Thursday’s ICBM launch was a warning to U.S.-South Korea military drills, according to the state-run KCNA news agency.

A week ago, South Korean and U.S. forces began an 11-day exercise called Freedom Shield 23, the largest of its kind not seen since 2017.

North Korea criticized the U.S. and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for raising its human rights violations at an informal meeting of the U.N. Security Council, calling it a “serious challenge” to its sovereignty, KCNA reported on Sunday.

North Korea’s permanent mission to the United Nations was quoted by state media as saying: “The U.S. launch of a human rights campaign against North Korea in the United Nations arena, coupled with aggressive joint military exercises, poses a serious threat to our national security.”

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