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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024

North Korea launches missiles amid US-South Korea military drills

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Missile tests coincide with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to South Korea for a democracy summit

North Korea escalated tensions by firing short-range ballistic missiles into its eastern waters on Monday, a move that coincides with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s arrival in South Korea. The launches came shortly before Blinken was scheduled to open a democracy summit in Seoul, spotlighting the ongoing security challenges in the region.

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the missile launches, stating, “North Korea fired an unspecified ballistic missile toward the East Sea.” The East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, has been a frequent target area for North Korea’s missile tests, underscoring the persistent threat posed by Pyongyang’s military capabilities.

Japan’s Coast Guard, which monitored the missile launches, reported that the projectiles appeared to have fallen into the sea, posing no immediate threat to neighbouring countries. However, the tests underscore North Korea’s continued development of its ballistic missile program, despite international calls for denuclearization.

The missile tests occurred days after the conclusion of the Freedom Shield joint military drills between the US and South Korea. These exercises, which North Korea has long criticized as invasion rehearsals, involved a significant number of troops, signalling a robust show of force amid escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang had previously warned that Seoul and Washington would face consequences for the Freedom Shield drills, which saw an increased troop presence compared to previous years. Approximately 27,000 US soldiers participated in the drills, held in South Korea, highlighting the strategic partnership between the two allies.

The latest missile launches add to a series of North Korean weapons demonstrations this year, including a missile equipped with a manoeuvrable hypersonic warhead launched on January 14. These tests reflect North Korea’s ongoing efforts to enhance its military capabilities in the face of perceived threats from the US and its allies.

In the context of these developments, Blinken and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol addressed the Summit for Democracy, emphasizing the role of technology in promoting democratic values. However, they also cautioned against the misuse of technology to undermine democratic institutions.

The democracy summit, an initiative spearheaded by US President Joe Biden, aims to foster global discussions on democratic governance. However, the event has faced criticism for its selective invitation list, with some countries reportedly excluded from participation.

As tensions persist on the Korean Peninsula, the international community remains watchful of North Korea’s missile tests and their implications for regional security. The US and South Korea continue to strengthen their military and diplomatic ties in response to the challenges posed by Pyongyang’s actions.

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