North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters Thursday, hours after the North threatened to launch “fiercer” military responses to the US bolstering its security commitment to its allies South Korea and Japan.
The missile fired from the North’s eastern coastal Wonsan area at 10:48 a.m. landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to its neighbours. After detecting the launch, South Korean, US and Japanese militaries quickly condemned the launch that they say threatens stability in the region.
It was North Korea’s first ballistic missile firing in eight days and the latest in its barrage of tests in recent months. North Korea previously said some of the tests were simulations of nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets. Many experts say North Korea would eventually want to enhance its nuclear capability to wrest bigger concessions from its rivals.
Earlier Thursday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned that a recent US-South Korea-Japan summit accord on the North would leave tensions on the Korean Peninsula “more unpredictable.”
Choe’s statement was North Korea’s first official response to US President Joe Biden’s trilateral summit with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of a regional gathering Sunday in Cambodia. In their joint statement, the three leaders strongly condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to work together to strengthen deterrence. Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea and Japan with a full range of capabilities, including its nuclear arms.
The keener the US is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the fiercer (North Korea’s) military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said. “It will pose a more serious, realistic and inevitable threat to the US and its vassal forces.”
Choe didn’t say what steps North Korea could take but said that “the US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret.”
South Korea’s Defence Ministry responded later Thursday that the purpose of the trilateral summit was to coordinate a joint response to curb and deter advancing nuclear and missile threats by North Korea. Spokesperson Moon Hong Sik told reporters that security cooperation among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo was contributing to solidifying a US extended deterrence to its allies.
The North Korean missile launched Thursday flew about about 240 kilometres at the maximum altitude of 47 kilometres, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It called the launch “a grave provocation” that undermines peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.