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North Korea fires ballistic missiles as Blinken visits South – media

The reported test comes after Pyongyang decried the latest joint drills held by the US and South Korea

North Korea fired multiple short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Monday, the Yonhap News Agency has reported, citing senior South Korean military officials. The launches were carried out as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Seoul for a state visit.

The ballistic missile tests, Pyongyang’s first in two months, were detected between 7:44am and 8:22am local time, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) stated. The missiles traveled around 300km and landed in the East Sea (also known as the Sea of Japan), they added. 

“North Korea fired at least three missiles, and their trajectories were similar to those of [the] KN-24,” a senior military official was quoted as saying. The KN-24 is a solid-fuel ballistic missile with a range of up to 410km and an estimated payload of 400-500kg.

“We strongly condemn North Korea’s latest missile launch, which is a clear provocation that seriously threatens peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the JCS said.

The Defense Ministry in Tokyo confirmed the launch, saying all three missiles had traveled about 350km before landing in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 370km from the coast. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the tests, adding that Japan was analyzing them while working with the US and South Korea.

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Joint US-South Korea air drill on April 14, 2023 at an undisclosed location in South Korea.
North Korea condemns latest US-South Korea drills

The launches come after South Korea and the US wrapped up large-scale annual joint military drills earlier this month. The 11-day Freedom Shield exercises on the Korean Peninsula reportedly involved twice the number of troops compared to 2023 and carried out roughly double the number of field-training drills.

North Korea branded the exercises “reckless” and a “further escalation of military threats,” claiming they were preparation for “an invasion attempt.” Earlier this month, Pyongyang warned the US and South Korea to stop any further “provocative and destabilizing” actions, adding that “a nuclear war may be ignited even with a single spark.” 

Blinken arrived in Seoul on Monday to attend the Summit for Democracy conference hosted by President Yoon Suk Yeol. The event, an initiative of US President Joe Biden, is reportedly aimed at discussing ways to stop democratic backsliding and the erosion of rights and freedoms worldwide. Blinken is expected to meet his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul, during the visit.

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March 18, 2024 at 02:48PM
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