PYONGYANG (Dispatches) – North Korea fired four short-range ballistic missiles into the western sea on Saturday, South Korea’s military said, as Seoul and Washington ended a high-profile six-day military exercise.
This is the latest in a barrage of North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), with one landing near South Korea’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
North Korea’s launches came as the United States and South Korea completed “Vigilant Storm”, their largest-ever joint air exercises which began on Monday, which North Korea described as “aggressive and provocative”.
Pak Jong-chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said in a statement that extending the drills “is a very dangerous and wrong choice.”
“The irresponsible decision of the U.S. and South Korea is shoving the present situation caused by provocative military acts of the allied forces to an uncontrollable phase,” Pak added.
Saturday’s launches came between 11:31 and 11:59 a.m. (02:31-02:59 GMT) and flew about 130 km (80 miles), reaching an altitude of about 20 km (10 miles), Seoul said.
The joint exercise involved some 240 military aircraft and two U.S. B-1B strategic bombers, as well as four F-16 and four F-35A fighters, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Pyongyang condemned the war games as “an aggressive and provocative military drill targeting” North Korea, insisting that the United States and South Korea would “pay the most horrible price in history” if they continued with the maneuvers.
The North has particularly expressed anger in the past over the deployment of U.S. strategic weapons such as B-1Bs and aircraft carrier strike groups, which have been deployed to and near the Korean peninsula in times of high tension.
Pyongyang, meanwhile, has also ramped up its missile launches to protest the current U.S.-led aerial military exercises. Such drills have long infuriated North Korea, which regards them as rehearsals for invading the nation.
North Korea’s blitz of missile launches on Wednesday and Thursday also included an intercontinental ballistic missile and another that landed near South Korea’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
In recent days, North and South Koreas have exchanged missile fires that landed off the coasts of the rival neighbors for the first time amid the ongoing aerial war games.