North Korea Launches More Missiles, Calls Pacific ‘Our Firing Range’

North Korea launched at least two short-range ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast Monday morning, hours after the United States conducted joint aerial maneuvers with Japan and South Korea. Monday’s launch is the third major weapons test by North Korea this year.

“We are well aware of the movement of U.S. forces’ strategic strike means recently getting brisk around the Korean Peninsula,” said Kim Yo Jong in a statement Monday that was carried by state media Korean Central News Agency.

“The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range [will] depend upon the U.S. forces’ action.”

Kim Yo Jong is the vice department director of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee, who often speaks on behalf of her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, frequently in an insulting fashion.

The KCNA also confirmed the missiles as being fired from North Korea’s “super-large” rocket launchers in retaliation of the joint aerial exercises the United States conducted with allies Japan and South Korea separately the day before.

In a markedly swift statement, KCNA explained the 7 a.m. launch as being composed of two 600-millimeter rockets aimed at targets 395 kilometers (245 miles) and 337 kilometers (209 miles) away. It said North Korea’s “latest multiple precision attack weapon system” was a tactical nuclear attack tool boasting “formidable power.” According to North Korea’s scientists, the statement said, four rounds would devastate the enemy's operational airfield.

The flight distance of the rockets — confirmed by authorities in Japan and South Korea as falling in the 340- to 400-kilometer range — would put three air bases within reach, including the U.S. Air Force bases Osan and Kunsan.

North Korea had shown off the 600 millimeter rockets in a New Year’s broadcast last month, as it announced its military goals of mass producing tactical nuclear weapons and developing a “quick nuclear counterstrike” intercontinental ballistic missile.

Earlier, South Korea’s military said it detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired between 7 a.m. through 7:11 a.m. from North Korea’s Sukchon area, north of the capital Pyongyang, into waters east of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan’s Coast Guard had also reported up to three projectiles that could be ballistic missiles, which splashed outside of its exclusive economic zone.

The Monday morning action comes two days after Pyongyang launched a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in what the nuclear-armed state described as a “surprise” exercise to test its capability for a “mobile and mighty counterattack.”

The United States responded quickly, dispatching two B1B strategic bombers and other assets from Guam to fly in formation Sunday with fighter jets belonging to Japanese and South Korean forces.

“The training demonstrated the South Korea-U.S. combined defense capabilities and posture, featuring the alliance’s overwhelming forces, through the timely and immediate deployment of the U.S. extended deterrence assets to the Korean Peninsula,” Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff explained.

Kim Yo Jong, the sister, warned of more “corresponding counteraction” in the presence of direct or indirect threats.

“We affirm once again that there is no change in our will to make the worst maniacs escalating the tensions pay the price for their actions,” she said.

The U.S. and South Korea are set to engage in a “tabletop” exercise at the Pentagon on Wednesday, which will feature military leaders talking through a coordinated response to a hypothetical North Korean nuclear attack on the Korean Peninsula.

This year’s combined springtime exercises named Freedom Shield is also set to take place next month for 11 days, according to Seoul, under realistic nuclear threat scenarios, while drawing lessons from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Source: Voice of America