Passersby watch a TV report of North Korea`s missile launch at Seoul Station on Thursday. (Yonhap)
The missile launches notably came after North Korea on Saturday publicly justified its flurry of missile test launches as a “planned self-defensive” action against the US military threats and denounced the US for repositioning a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said two short-range ballistic missiles were fired from the area of Munchon city in Gangwon Province toward the East Sea from 1:48 a.m. to 1:58 a.m. on Sunday.
The short-range ballistic missiles traveled about 350 kilometers at a speed of Mach 5 and an altitude of around 90 km, the JCS said in a statement, adding that South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing the specifications.
The JCS said its chief, Gen. Kim Seung-kyum, and Gen. Paul LaCamera, chief of the United Nations Command and United States Forces Korea, held a virtual meeting and shared their assessment of the situation.
“Our military will maintain a firm readiness posture while tracking and monitoring related moves in preparation for further provocations by North Korea in close coordination with the US,” the JCS said.
North Korea fired a total of 12 ballistic missiles in seven discrete launches over 15 days from Sep.25 days until Sunday. The launches were notably conducted at different places and times.
North Korea has fired ballistic missile in unusually short intervals as the country has sought to justify its recent spate of ballistic missile launches as a self-defensive measure to protect the country and a legitimate tit-for-tat action against the recent South Korea-US combined military exercises.
North Korea’s Defense Ministry on Saturday claimed that the redeployment of the US carrier strike group near the Korean Peninsula is an “event of considerably huge negative splash to the regional situation,” justifying the recent spate of missile launches.
“This is a sort of military bluffing meant to issue the so-called warning to the righteous reaction shown by the Korean People’s Army to the extremely provocative and threatening joint military drills of the US and South Korea,” an English-language statement — which was issued under the name of an unnamed spokesperson and carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency — read.
“The armed forces of the DPRK are seriously approaching the extremely worrisome development of the present situation.”
The Defense Ministry’s statement was released at a time when the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and the South Korean Navy’s warships staged a new round of two-day bilateral maneuvering exercises in international waters of the East Sea to strengthen combined defense capabilities against mounting threats from North Korea.
The bilateral drills began on Friday after the USS Ronald Reagan made a sudden U-turn in a tit-for-tat military action against North Korea’s Tuesday launch of a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile that traveled around 4,500 kilometers and overflew Japan.
The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was repositioned in the international waters of South Korea’s East Sea on Wednesday.
The rare redeployment notably came days after the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group joined a trilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise that was conducted by the navy forces of South Korea, the US and Japan on Sept. 30 in the international waters of the East Sea.
The US carrier strike group conducted bilateral naval exercises with the South Korean Navy’s fleet from Sept. 26 to 29 in the East Sea operational area, called the Korea Theater of Operations, after they entered a naval base in Busan on Sept. 23 for the first time since 2017.
In addition, North Korea’s National Aviation Administration on Saturday claimed that the country’s flurry of missile launches is a legitimate defense against the US threats by issuing a press statement, according to KCNA.
The agency’s unnamed spokesperson underscored that its missile test launches are “ordinary and planned self-defensive measures to defend the country’s safety and regional peace from the US direct military threats that have lasted for more than half a century” in the Korean-language press statement.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday also claimed that the recent missile launches are “just counteraction measures” against the South Korea-US bilateral naval exercises from Sept. 26-29, warning of consequences for the redeployment of the USS Ronald Reagan.
But in the wake of North Korea’s recent spate of ballistic missile launches, South Korean and the US defense leaders publicly and repeatedly reaffirmed the allies’ commitment to taking tit-for-tat military actions against North Korea’s provocation.
South Korea’s Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup and Commander of US Indo-Pacific Command Adm. John Aquilino on Friday shared the allies’ common understanding that the “more provocations North Korea makes, the stronger the alliance’s military response will be.”
By Ji Da-gyum ([email protected])