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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

North Korea reacts to US nuclear stunt

Pyongyang's latest weapon test comes one day after a US nuclear missile submarine docked in South Korea for the first time in four decades

North Korea has fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, putting on another display of its strategic weaponry amid rising nuclear tensions with Washington.

The two missiles were launched early on Wednesday from the Sunan area, northeast of Pyongyang, and traveled 550-600 kilometers (340-370 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan (known as the East Sea by the two Koreas), according to Japanese and South Korean military statements. They rose to an altitude of about 50 kilometers.

Read more: What are solid-fuel missiles, and why is North Korea developing them?

The latest test comes just one day after the USS Kentucky docked in Busan, marking the first port call on the peninsula by a US nuclear ballistic missile submarine since the 1980s. The Ohio-class submarine can carry up to 20 Trident II D5 intercontinental missiles.

South Korea’s defense minister Lee Jong-sup boasted on Tuesday that the “deployment of US nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) on the Korean Peninsula is an example of action demonstrating that the US extended deterrence against the Republic of Korea will be firmly implemented.”

Read more: North Korea tells US to beware of ‘shocking accident’

Pyongyang and Washington this year have ramped up alleged provocations against each other, including a spate of missile tests by North Korea and large-scale military exercises by US and South Korean forces. North Korean officials have claimed that they must continue to display their country’s military might, including its nuclear weapons program, to ensure peace and stability amid escalating threats from the “gangster-like Americans.”

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Sunday that Washington was willing to hold peace talks with North Korea. North Korean foreign policy chief Kim Yo-jong, sister of leader Kim Jong-un, rejected the offer a day later and said it would be senseless to permanently abandon Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for concessions that the US could quickly reverse.

Last week North Korea launched the latest version of its intercontinental ballistic missile, the solid-fueled Hwasong-18, in a show of force after Pyongyang accused the US of flying a spy plane over its exclusive economic zone.

A new wrinkle was added to the tensions on Tuesday, when a US soldier voluntarily dashed across the border into North Korea while on an orientation tour at the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom. He was taken into custody by North Korean authorities. The United Nations Command, which oversees the demilitarized zone at the border, said it was working with North Korea’s military “to resolve this incident.”