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North Korea, South Korea fire ballistic missiles as tensions rise on peninsula

Pyongyang fired the first missiles on Wednesday, sending two into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula five minutes apart, at 12:38 p.m. and 12:43 p.m. local time (11:38 p.m. and 11:43 p.m. ET), according to the Japanese Coast Guard. .

Seoul followed that test less than three hours later, firing a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the submerged 3,700-ton ROKS Dosan Ahn Changho submarine, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. . The missile hit its target with precision, the ministry said without giving further details.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was present for the test, the ministry said.

South Korea’s weapons development, including its missile capabilities, has accelerated as the country tries to become less dependent on the United States and more wary of the growing missile program in North Korea.

In May, Moon and US President Joe Biden agreed to end a 40-year-old bilateral deal that limited the range and payload of South Korean missiles.

North Korea, in a publication by its Central Korean News Agency (KCNA), called the end of these restrictions on the South a “deliberate and hostile act” on Washington’s part and vowed to “counter the states. -United on the principle of force for force. “

With this launch, South Korea becomes the world’s seventh army to successfully test and SLBM, the ministry said.

The other SLBM nations are also nuclear powers, but South Korea does not have nuclear weapons.

Earlier, North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles on Wednesday into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

South Korea said the missiles covered a distance of around 800 kilometers (500 miles) while reaching 60 kilometers (37 miles).

The Japanese Defense Ministry said the North Korean projectiles fell into waters outside its exclusive economic zone.

Yet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the North Korean launches “scandalous”, adding that they “threaten the peace and security of our country and our region.”

While the U.S. Army’s Indo-Pacific military command in Hawaii has said the North Korean test poses no “immediate threat” to the United States or its allies, it said in a statement that the launch “emphasizes the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program. “

Wednesday’s missile tests from North Korea and South Korea came just hours after Moon met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Seoul.

China wields substantial influence over North Korea, and during the meeting, Moon said Pyongyang had failed to respond to Seoul and Washington’s efforts to engage in dialogue regarding the situation on the peninsula.

North Korea’s ballistic missile testing on Wednesday is Pyongyang’s first since Biden took office in January, and comes just days after Pyongyang said it tested long-range cruise missiles on Saturday and Sunday.

Pyonyang is prohibited from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons under international law. Previous tests of this type have met with international stigma and sanctions from the United Nations Security Council.

Cruise missiles are powered by jet engines. Much like an airplane, they stay closer to the ground, making them more difficult to detect. Most cruise missiles are not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

In comparison, ballistic missiles are only propelled for a short part of their flight. They are fired on an arc path which, for longer range versions, takes them out of Earth’s atmosphere, and they can handle heavier payloads such as nuclear warheads.

The North Korean military unveiled two new missiles during parades last October and January. One of them, which analysts said may be one of the largest in the world, was so big it had to be placed on an 11-axle truck.
But at the last Northern Military Parade last week, there were no missiles to see, with the parade ranks filled in place of armaments from the smallest variety of battlefield.

“Some analysts suggested the parade was restricted to allow room for negotiations as it did not feature nuclear-capable weapons or Kim Jong Un’s political statements,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University. from Seoul. “But North Korea’s subsequent missile tests contradict international hopes for dialogue.”

On the South Korean side, the launch of the SLBM was part of a series of military tests carried out by the country’s military on Wednesday.

It also fired a long-range air-to-surface missile, freeing it from an aircraft, spreading its wings and successfully flying it over the target, the ministry said.

This weapon, still in development, is designed for use by South Korean FK-21 fighters, stealth jets that are at the prototype stage.

A statement from the South Korean Defense Development Agency also said the country had successfully developed a new ballistic missile capable of carrying a heavier and more powerful warhead. The missile is designed to destroy concrete structures and tunnels, the agency said.

“This high-resistance ballistic missile will increase the deterrence of our army in peacetime and, in times of crisis, will be used as a basic arsenal to project an overwhelming response,” the defense ministry said.

The ministry said a hypersonic cruise missile designed to strike enemy ships had also been developed. The statement called the new hypersonic much faster than the missiles currently in South Korea’s inventory and said it would soon be deployed with South Korean military units.

CNN’s Junko Ogura and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.

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