South Korea and U.S. Strengthen Defense Cooperation in Wake of North Korean Nuclear Threats
In the face of growing military and nuclear threats from North Korea, South Korea and the United States have ramped up their defense cooperation. This week, North Korea tested short-range ballistic missiles and strategic cruise missiles from a submarine, in an attempt to show it could conduct potential nuclear strikes on both South Korean targets and the U.S. mainland. The latest ballistic missile test by Pyongyang was the launch of its largest Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew up to a maximum altitude of 6,045 km (3,756 mi) and traveled 1,000 km (621 mi) before landing in waters off the country’s eastern coast.
The test, which was supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was conducted to demonstrate a “tough response posture” to ongoing US-South Korea exercises, and was intended to “strike fear into the enemies” over what it called the “open hostility” shown to the North by the large-scale exercises. Photos released on Friday showed Kim Jong Un watching the launch with his daughter and included pictures from space apparently shot by a camera mounted on the missile.
The launch overshadowed the summit between South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, which was meant to develop strategic ties and rebuild security cooperation between the often-estranged US allies in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threats. The leaders agreed to resume defense dialogue and further strengthen their three-way security cooperation with the US to counter North Korea and other regional challenges.
Kim accused the United States and South Korea of increasing tensions with the military drills, and stressed the need for North Korea’s nuclear missile forces to maintain readiness to counterattack rivals with “overwhelming offensive measures anytime” and make them realize their persistent and expanded military actions will “bring an irreversible, grave threat to them.”
South Korea and the United States on Monday kicked off the Freedom Shield exercises, an annual large-scale joint military drill, which would last until March 23. United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests due to its nuclear program. United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit the North's ballistic missiles, and this launch has been met with criticism from the governments of Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo. It has been hypothesized that this weapon has the capability to launch a nuclear warhead that could reach any destination in the United States.
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