Seoul, South Korea CNN —
North Korea tested a ballistic missile on Thursday as it warned the United States of “intensified military counteraction” against Washington’s strengthened defense ties with South Korea and Japan amid rising regional tensions.
In a statement from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said the US stepping up enhanced deterrence towards allies in the region is “a gamble they will surely regret.”
The larger the US defense presence in the region, “the heavier the (North Korean) military counter-action will be, in direct proportion to it,” Choe said.
“The US will be aware that they are playing, which they will certainly regret,” Choe said, adding that recent large-scale joint military exercises between the US and its allies “have failed” to stem North Korea’s countermeasures.
The KCNA statement said the alert was in response to trilateral talks between the US, South Korea and Japan on Sunday during the ASEAN summit. At the meeting, US President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to stepping up enhanced deterrence and defending South Korea and Japan with a “full spectrum of capabilities,” including nuclear weapons.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have steadily increased this year, with South Korea and the US responding to the Pyongyang missile tests by stepping up joint drills and military exercises, as well as their own missile tests.
On Thursday, South Korea and the US conducted a missile defense drill, through which the two countries reaffirmed their firm joint defense stance, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
Later Thursday, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile from the Wonsan area of Kangwon province around 10:48 a.m. local time.
The missile, which landed in waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, had a flight range of about 240 kilometers (149 miles), reached an altitude of about 47 kilometers (29 miles), and had a top speed of about Mach 4 – suggesting that it was four times faster than sound, said the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The South Korean military has increased surveillance and is working closely with the United States, the joint chiefs added.
Japan’s defense ministry said no missiles had fallen on Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), according to a statement Thursday. Chief of Cabinet Hirokazu Matsuno said Tokyo will continue to “gather and analyze the necessary intelligence and closely monitor North Korea’s military trends in close cooperation with the United States and South Korea.”
This is the 33rd day this year that North Korea has conducted a missile test, according to a CNN tally. The tally includes both ballistic and cruise missiles. In contrast, it conducted just four tests in 2020 and eight in 2021.
The US and international observers have been warning for months that North Korea appears to be preparing for an underground nuclear test, with satellite images showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the hermit nation’s first in five years.