North Korea Fires Missile After Warning US of ‘Fierce’ Move

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile Thursday toward waters off its east coast after issuing a warning to the US of a ‘fierce’ move if it persists in conducting joint military drills with allies in the region.

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North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile at around 10:48 a.m. from a coastal area in Kangwon province, flying about 240 kilometers (150 miles) and reaching an altitude of around 47 kms, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It was its first missile test in about a week and adds to the record of more than 60 ballistic missiles fired this year -- in defiance of United Nations resolutions barring Pyongyang from such launches.

The test came shortly after Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui issued a statement saying Pyongyang will respond militarily if the US keeps working with its allies on joint exercises, including those to deter North Korea. South Korea and the US conducted a joint missile defense drill on Thursday, the Joint Chiefs said.

“The keener the US is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, the fiercer the DPRK’s military counteraction will be,” she said in a statement issued by state media, referring to North Korea by its formal name.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement it was aware for the ballistic missile launch, which “highlights the destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s weapons.

Leader Kim Jong Un has ratcheted up tensions to some of the highest levels in years by firing off a massive barrage of missiles in recent weeks that included the first one shot across a nautical border with South Korea set up after the Korean War.

Kim is finding space to ramp up provocations and conduct tit-for-tat military moves against the US and its allies 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.

North Korea has bristled for decades at joint military exercises, calling them a prelude to an invasion. The US, Japan and South Korea have all warned that Kim’s regime seems to be ready to turn tensions even higher with its first test of a nuclear bomb in about five years.

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 -- the US allies that host the bulk of America’s troops in Asia.

--With assistance from Shinhye Kang.

(Updates throughout with details on missile)

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