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Korea Drills Intensify as North Launches Two More Missiles in US Center

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North Korea ramped up its missile tests on Tuesday, carrying out its second launch in three days amid some of the largest joint military exercises in years between South Korea and the United States.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were launched around 7:40 a.m. (10:40 GMT Monday) from South Hwanghae Province, near the country’s west coast, and flew about 620 km.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the South Korean military is on high alert and maintains a full state of readiness in close coordination with the United States.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan was gathering information about the missile, and that they had not confirmed any damage inside the country related to the launch.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the missiles had not been confirmed to have reached Japanese territory or exclusive economic zones.

“We see that there is a possibility that North Korea will escalate further provocative actions, including missile launches and nuclear tests,” Matsuno said.

“We will continue to closely cooperate with the United States and South Korea on North Korea’s military movements, and we will collect and analyze information with surveillance.”

The US Indo-Pacific Command said the latest launches did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory or to its allies, but said North Korea’s illegal weapons programs had a destabilizing effect.

South Korea’s military “strongly” condemned North Korea, describing the repeated missile launches as a serious provocation that threatens the peace and security of the region, and a US State Department spokesperson criticized the launches as a violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

“provocations”

“The South Korean-American coalition will carry out our exercises and exercises as planned, even if North Korea attempts to impede the Freedom Shield exercises with provocations,” a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman told a news briefing.

The launch comes two days after North Korea test-fired two strategic cruise missiles from a submarine, and less than a week after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the military to step up exercises to deter and respond to a “real war”. if necessary.

South Korean and US forces began 11 days of joint exercises, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23”, on Monday, which will be conducted on a scale not seen since 2017 to counter growing threats from North Korea. North Korea has long worried about the allied drills as a rehearsal for invasion.

North Korea’s state media, KCNA, reported on Sunday that the country had decided to take “important practical” measures to deter war, saying that “the war provocations of the United States and South Korea have reached a red line.”

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday that the United States will not allow “any steps taken by North Korea to deter or constrain us from actions we feel are necessary to protect stability on the Korean peninsula.”

The United States holds an informal meeting of members of the United Nations Security Council on Friday on human rights violations in North Korea.

North Korea’s foreign ministry denounced the planned meeting as the “most intense expression” of the US’s “hostile policy” against Pyongyang, and warned that it would take “the most severe countermeasures”.

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