Seoul, South Korea
The United States and South Korea launched four missiles off the east coast of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday morning local time, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The test was the allies’ second exercise in less than 24 hours, following a provocative test launch Tuesday morning by neighboring North Korea, which fired a ballistic missile without warning at Japan in a significant escalation. of its weapons testing program.
The United States and South Korea initially responded to the provocation with a precision bombing exercise on Tuesday, in which a South Korean F-15K fighter jet fired two air-to-ground munitions at a virtual target at a firing range west of the Korean peninsula. according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Allies often respond to North Korean missile tests with military exercises.
Wednesday’s launch included four ATACMS missiles, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff statement said. Also know as Army tactical missile systemssuch weapons are ground-to-ground missiles that can fly around 200 miles (320 kilometers).
According to John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, the launch was designed to demonstrate that the United States and its allies have “the military capabilities ready to respond to provocations from the North.”
“This is not the first time we’ve done this in response to provocations from the North to make sure we can demonstrate our own capabilities,” Kirby told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
“We want to see the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) has shown no inclination to move in that direction, frankly he is moving in the opposite direction by continuing to conduct these missile tests that are violations. of security council resolutions,” he added.
On Tuesday, the US and Japan also carried out a joint response to the North Korean launch, with US Marine Corps and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets flying over the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.
Following a 25-minute phone call with US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea’s latest launch represented “a serious challenge to the peace and stability of Japan, the region and the international community” and that Biden fully shared this view. .
Analysts say there is little the United States and its allies can do to stop Kim’s relentless weapons buildup.
“The North Koreans are not in the mood to talk. They’re in a try-and-rule mood,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Failed summits between the United States and North Korea during the Trump administration have led Kim to believe he has nothing to gain from the talks, Lewis said.
Since the 2019 negotiations with former US President Donald Trump broke down without agreement, the North Korean leader has put forward a program to develop nuclear-capable missiles, and is following that timetable, Lewis added.
“North Korea will continue to conduct missile tests until the current round of modernization is complete. I don’t think a nuclear (test) explosion is very far off,” Lewis said.
Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said North Korea is making progress.
Every time the Kim regime drops a weapon, “they learn, they get better, they become more capable,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.
Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea appeared to be headed toward developing nuclear weapons.
“I think denuclearization is now in the dustbin of history as a failed policy,” he said.
“There just isn’t a practical plan right now, especially in the short term, to bring North Korea to the negotiating table and pursue denuclearization.”