North Korea fires rockets in response to US-South Korea air drills
Kim Jong Un fires rockets from ‘tactical nuke launcher’ in response to US-South Korea air drills and warns the weapon can ‘reduce airfields to ashes’
- North Korea launched two missiles on Monday after US-South Korean air drills
- The air drills themselves followed an ICBM test from North Korea on Saturday
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles Monday, its second weapons test in 48 hours, which Pyongyang said was a drill for a rocket launcher capable of a ‘tactical nuclear attack’ that could take out entire enemy air bases.
Pyongyang had already tested one of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on Saturday and warned more was to come, with leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister calling the Pacific the North’s ‘firing range’.
The launches come as Seoul and Washington look to bolster their cooperation in the region amid what they perceive to be growing threats from Pyongyang.
The allies staged joint air drills after Saturday’s launch, further angering North Korea which sees military exercises in its backyard as rehearsals for invasion.
North Korean state media outlet KCNA said the missile drill on Monday involved ‘super-large multiple rocket launchers, the tactical nuclear attack means’ and said the weapons could ‘reduce to ashes the enemy’s operational airfield’.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said Pyongyang was closely monitoring the moves to deploy more US strategic assets to the region, vowing ‘corresponding counteraction’ if needed.
The image broadcast today, Monday 20 February, showing the second missile launch in 48hrs
A Hwasong-15 ICBM is launched at Pyongyang International Airport, North Korea, on 18 February in this photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
Kim Jong Un’s sister warns of ‘using Pacific as our firing range’ following US-Korean air drills
‘The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the US forces’ action character,’ Kim Yo Jong said in a statement published by KCNA.
Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points in decades, after the North last year declared itself an ‘irreversible’ nuclear power and Kim Jong Un called for an ‘exponential’ increase in weapons production, including tactical nukes.
Meanwhile, the US reaffirmed its commitment to defend South Korea from Northern aggression at the end of January this year.
A joint statement highlighted the ‘continued provocations and violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, including its missile launches and recent drone incursions.’
Today, South Korea’s military said the string of weapons tests by Pyongyang were ‘a serious provocation that undermines peace and stability on the Korean peninsula’.
Seoul’s foreign ministry imposed fresh sanctions on four individuals and five entities linked to North Korea’s weapons programmes.
‘Our government has made it clear that North Korea’s provocations will inevitably come at a price,’ it said in a statement.
The coalition drills yesterday saw South Korean stealth fighters and jets fly with American F-16 fighters and an escorted B-1B bomber.
The B-1B strategic bomber has been used by the United States Air Force since 1985, holding up to 24 cruise missiles.
While originally designed for nuclear payloads, it now carries only conventional weaponry.
The South Korean Defense Ministry, U.S. Air Force B-1B bombers, F-16 fighter jets and South Korean Air Force F-35A fighter jets fly over South Korea during a joint air drill on 19 February
An American B-1B strategic bomber, used by the US Air Force since 1985
People watch a news report on North Korea firing two ballistic missiles, in Seoul, 20 February
Pyongyang had previously said its Saturday ICBM launch was a ‘surprise’ drill that demonstrated North Korea’s capacity to carry out a ‘fatal nuclear counterattack’.
The North Korean weapons launches came ahead of a joint US-South Korean tabletop exercise this week aimed at improving their response in the event of a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.
North Korea gave its soldiers an ‘excellent mark’ for carrying out the ‘sudden launching drill’ on Saturday, but South Korean analysts pointed out that the estimated nine hours between the order and the launch was not particularly rapid.
Kim Yo Jong dismissed such criticism on Monday as ‘a bid to undervalue the preparedness of the DPRK missile forces’, she said, using North Korea’s official name.
The UN Security Council will hold a meeting to discuss the escalating situation on Tuesday.
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