(Bloomberg) — North Korea fired at least 10 ballistic missiles Wednesday including one that was the first to fly over a nautical border with South Korea, in its biggest daily barrage under leader Kim Jong Un.
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The launches came about a day after North Korea threatened to take “powerful measures” if the US doesn’t halt military drills with partners including South Korea, in what might be an effort by Kim to lay the groundwork for his first nuclear test in five years.
North Korea fired at least 10 missiles of various types toward the east and the west, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It earlier said it detected three missiles fired from North Korea’s Kangwon province on the east coast into the sea from around 8:51 a.m. One of them fell into international waters some 26 kilometers (16 miles) south of the Northern Limit Line nautical border.
South Korea protested the move, which came as it was in a national mourning period over the deaths at the weekend of 156 people killed in a crowd crush at a nightlife district in Seoul. South Korea’s military also raised its alertness level, Yonhap News Agency reported.
An air raid alarm was sounded in South Korea’s Ulleung county around at 8:55 a.m. Wednesday, TV broadcaster YTN reported. The Defense Ministry didn’t confirm there was an alert.
The largest single-day ballistic missile barrage had been on June 5 of this year when North Korea fired eight short-range missiles from four locations within about 35 minutes, South Korea’s military said. The test appeared to be a demonstration of the state’s ability to quickly deploy and fire off missiles from various sites, which could make it difficult for US-operated interceptors in the region to shoot them down.
The US and South Korea this week started air drills known as Vigilant Storm that will run through Friday and involve about 240 aircraft in about 1,600 sorties to “hone their wartime capabilities,” the US 7th Air Force said in a statement. The drills have added to a series of joint exercises on land, sea and air in recent weeks, some of which have also included Japan, that have led to complaints and provocations from Pyongyang.
North Korea Warns US With ‘Powerful Measures’ After Drills
Since the end of September, when the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group was in the region for exercises, North Korea has fired one of its biggest barrages of missiles under Kim, including two short-range ballistic missiles that were tested Oct. 28.
The US, Japan and South Korea have warned that Kim could soon raise the stakes even higher with a nuclear test, which would be its first in five years and seventh overall. Washington, Tokyo and Seoul have all promised a harsh and coordinated punishment if Pyongyang sets off an atomic device, which would be a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The test might be used to advance Kim’s pursuit of miniaturized nuclear warheads that he could mount on missiles to strike South Korea and Japan, which host the bulk of America’s troops in Asia.
The North Korean leader is finding space to ramp up provocations and conduct tit-for-tat military moves as the Biden administration focuses on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and China, two long-time partners of North Korea, have veto power at the UN Security Council and have shown no intent to punish Kim with extra sanctions.
–With assistance from Sophie Jackman, Shinhye Kang, Seyoon Kim and Philip Glamann.
(Updates and recasts.)
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