North Korea tested a ballistic missile on Thursday as it warned the United States of a “fiercer military counteraction” to Washington’s bolstered defense ties with South Korea and Japan amid rising regional tensions.
In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the US’ strengthening of extended deterrence to allies in the region “is gambling for which it will certainly regret.”
The greater the US defense presence in the region, “the fiercer (North Korean) military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said.
“The US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret,” Choe said, adding that recent large-scale joint military drills between the US and its allies had “failed to contain” North Korea’s counteraction.
The KCNA statement said the warning was in response to trilateral talks between the US, South Korea, and Japan on Sunday during the ASEAN summit. At the meeting, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed a commitment to reinforce extended deterrence and defend South Korea and Japan with a “full range of capabilities,” including nuclear weapons.
Joint drills and missile test
Tensions in the Korean Peninsula have steadily risen this year, with South Korea and the US responding to Pyongyang’s missile tests by stepping up joint drills and military exercises, as well as their own missile tests.
On Thursday, South Korea and the US conducted a missile defense drill, through which the two countries reaffirmed their firm joint defense posture, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
Later Thursday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile from the Wonsan area of Kangwon province at about 10:48 a.m. local time.
It said the missile, which landed in waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, had a flight range of about 240 kilometers (149 miles), reached an altitude of about 47 kilometers (29 miles), and hit a top speed of about Mach 4 – indicating it traveled four-times the speed of sound, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The South Korean military has strengthened its surveillance and is closely cooperating with the United States, the Joint Chiefs added.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said no missiles fell into Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to a statement Thursday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Tokyo continues “to collect and analyze necessary information and closely monitor North Korean military trends in close cooperation with the United States and South Korea.”
This marks the 33rd day this year that North Korea has carried out a missile test, according to a CNN count. The tally includes both ballistic and cruise missiles. By contrast, it conducted only four tests in 2020, and eight in 2021.
The US and international observers have been warning for months that North Korea appears to be preparing for an underground nuclear test, with satellite imagery showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the hermit nation’s first in five years.
CNN’s Emiko Jozuka, Kevin Liptak and Brad Lendon contributed reporting.