- Residents of Japan were told to take shelter after the launch
- South Korea and the US will extend the Vigilant Storm exercises
- North Korea launched five more missiles
- Pyongyang considers the extension of the drills “irresponsible” and “wrong”.
TOKYO/SEOUL, Nov 3 (Reuters) – North Korea fired several missiles into the sea on Thursday, including a failed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), prompting the United States and South Korea to extend air drills that angered Pyongyang.
Despite an initial government warning that an ICBM flew over Japan, triggering alarm bells for some residents, Tokyo later said this was false.
The launches came a day after North Korea launched a record 23 missiles a day, including the first to land off the coast of South Korea, and drew sharp criticism from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
Since Monday, South Korea and the United States have been holding one of the largest air drills ever, with hundreds of South Korean and US warplanes, including F-35 fighters, flying simulation missions around the clock.
After Thursday’s ICBM launch, the allies agreed to extend the exercises on Friday, which were supposed to end on Friday, South Korea’s Air Force said in a statement.
“A strong joint defense posture of the DPRK-US alliance is necessary in the current security crisis, which is intensifying due to North Korea’s provocations,” the statement said in initials of South Korea’s official name.
Park Jong-chong, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said late Thursday that the United States and South Korea had made a very dangerous decision by extending the drills and were “pushing” the situation out of control.
“The United States and South Korea will see that they have made a terrible mistake that cannot be reversed,” the state news agency KCNA said in a statement. He has already issued messages calling for a halt to the drills.
Secret South Korean and US drones simulating attacks during drills likely led North Korea to test a record number of missiles this week, experts said, but Pyongyang could turn up the heat ahead of another potential nuclear test.
Officials in South Korea and Japan said Thursday that one of the missiles may be an ICBM, North Korea’s longest-range missile, designed to carry a nuclear warhead to the other side of the planet.
North Korea also launched about five short-range ballistic missiles.
South Korean officials believe the ICBM failed to take off, Yonhap news agency reported, without elaborating. Representatives of the South Korean and Japanese defense ministries declined to confirm the possible failure.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the government had failed to detect an ICBM over the Sea of Japan, prompting him to correct his statement that it had flown over the country.
Yoji Koda, a retired vice admiral and former commander of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, said the missile’s loss of radar tracking indicated a botched launch.
“It means that at some point in the flight path there was some kind of problem with the rocket and it actually broke apart,” he said.
North Korea has failed several ICBM tests this year, according to South Korean and US officials.
The United States condemned North Korea’s ICBM launch, State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding that it showed the threat posed by Pyongyang’s illicit weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
South Korea issued a rare airstrike warning and fired its own missiles in response after Wednesday’s barrage. On Thursday, the South’s Ministry of Transport announced that air traffic in the area where the missile landed had been closed for about 24 hours before being reopened.
After the first launch on Thursday, residents of Japan’s Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures were warned to take shelter, the J-Alert emergency broadcasting system said, but it was later confirmed that the ICBM had not hit Japan.
“Fortunately, at least it didn’t fly over Japan, but how many times can they (North Korea) violate UN resolutions and repeat these illegal actions,” said Toshio Sumie, 74, a technician in Tokyo.
The first rocket flew to an altitude of about 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) and had a range of 750 km, he said. Such a scheme of flight is called a “high trajectory”, where the rocket is launched high into space to avoid flying over neighboring countries.
South Korea’s General Staff announced that a long-range missile was launched near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.
About an hour after the first launch, the South Korean military and the Japanese Coast Guard reported a second and third launch from North Korea. South Korea said both were short-range missiles fired from the city of Kaecheon, north of Pyongyang.
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman condemned North Korea’s missile launch as “deplorable and immoral” in a phone call on Thursday.
Minutes later, in brief comments to reporters, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea’s “repeated missile launch is outrageous and unforgivable.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian avoided direct comment on the North Korean missile launch or possible sanctions at a regular news briefing on Thursday, instead repeating Beijing’s standard line that he hoped all sides would resolve issues peacefully through dialogue.
Reporting by Kantoro Komiya, Tim Kelly, Chang-Ran Kim and David Dolan in TOKYO, Hyunhee Shin and Josh Smith in SEOUL and Eduardo Baptista in BEIJING; Written by Josh Smith; Edited by Chris Reese, Lincoln Feast, Gerry Doyle, Kim Coghill, Alexandra Hudson and Mark Heinrich
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