North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris . visit

    SEOUL – North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off the east coast on Sunday ahead of planned military exercises by South Korean and US forces with an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris .

    The South Korean military said it was a single short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of ​​Northern Pyongyan province just before 7 a.m.

    Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated it had reached its maximum altitude at 50 km and may have traveled an erratic trajectory. Hamada said it was outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.

    Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years are designed to evade missile defenses by maneuvering in flight and flying on a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts say.

    “If you count cruise missile launches, this is the nineteenth launch, an unprecedented pace. North Korea’s action poses a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do so as the invasion of Ukraine unfolds is inexcusable,” Hamada said, adding that Japan submitted through the North Korean embassy in Beijing. .

    The launch comes after the nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrives in South Korea to participate in joint exercises with South Korean forces, and ahead of a planned visit to Seoul this week by Harris.

    It was the North’s first such launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in a single day in early June, prompting the United States to increase sanctions for violating UN Security Council resolutions.

    North Korea rejects UN resolutions as infringing its sovereign right to self-defense and space exploration, and has criticized past joint exercises by the United States and South Korea as evidence of their hostile policies.

    The exercises have also been criticized by Russia and China, which have called on all sides not to take steps that increase tensions in the region, and have called for the easing of sanctions.

    After North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests earlier this year, including its intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017, the United States and South Korea said they would step up joint exercises and military displays of force to deter Pyongyang.

    “Defensive drills will not prevent North Korean missile tests,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international affairs at Ewha University in Seoul.

    But US-South Korea security cooperation is helping to deter a North Korean attack and counter Pyongyang’s coercion.

    South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday that North Korea may also be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile, citing the military of the South.

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