North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile Thursday into its eastern waters, according to South Korea’s military.
South Korea’s military detected the launch from North Korea’s eastern coastal Wonsan area at 10:48 a.m., according to the South’s joint chiefs of staff.
South Korea has upped its surveillance of North Korea while maintaining military readiness and close coordination with the United States.
The launch was North Korea’s first ballistic missile firing in eight days and the latest in its round of tests in the past few months. North Korea said some tests were simulations of nuclear attacks on South Korean and U.S. targets.
The tests may bolster North Korea’s nuclear capability to gain more leverage in garnering bigger concessions from its rivals.
North Korea’s foreign minister Choe Son-hui said in a statement Thursday that a recent U.S.-South Korea-Japan summit accord on the North would create tensions on the Korean Peninsula, making it “more unpredictable.”
Choe’s statement was North Korea’s first official response to President Joe Biden’s trilateral summit with South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Cambodia on Sunday. In a joint statement, the three leaders condemned North Korea’s recent missile tests and agreed to cooperate to strengthen deterrence.
“The keener the U.S. is on the bolstered offer of extended deterrence to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the fiercer [North Korea’s] military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said.
“It will pose a more serious, realistic, and inevitable threat to the U.S. and its vassal forces,” she added.
Choe did not say what steps North Korea could take but added, “The U.S. will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret.”
South Korea’s defense ministry later responded that the purpose of the trilateral summit was to coordinate a joint response to curb and deter advancing nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
Spokesperson Moon Hong Sik told reporters that security cooperation among Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo solidified the allies’ commitment to deterrence.
North Korea maintained that its recent weapons testing launches are permitted military counteractions to U.S.-South Korean military drills, which it views as a practice to launch attacks on the North. Washington and Seoul maintain that their exercises are defensive.
In recent months, South Korean and U.S. troops have expanded their regular exercises and resumed trilateral training with Japan in response to North Korea’s push to enhance its nuclear and missile arsenals.
Those drills involved a U.S. aircraft carrier and U.S. B-1B supersonic bombers for the first time since 2017, following a pause during the pandemic.
In her Thursday statement, Choe said, “The U.S. and its followers staged large-scale war drills for aggression one after another, but they failed to contain North Korea’s overwhelming counteraction.”
There have been concerns that North Korea might conduct its first nuclear test in five years to showcase its military capability against the United States and its allies.
Thursday’s launch followed the end of the G-20 summit in Indonesia. At the conference, Biden and South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol discussed the issue of North Korea during bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In the discussion, Biden said all international community members are interested in encouraging North Korea to act responsibly. At the same time, Yoon called for China to play a more active role in addressing the North Korean nuclear threats.
China remains North Korea’s closest major ally and most prominent source of aid. The country is suspected of ignoring the United Nations sanctions on North Korea and shipping confidential assistance to help its impoverished neighbor.