North Korea fired artillery barrage overnight, Seoul says

After a record-breaking bombardment of launches that included a failed ICBM test, North Korea overnight fired an artillery barrage into a marine “buffer zone,” according to Seoul’s military.

In reaction to the barrage of projectiles, Seoul and Washington, who have warned Pyongyang’s recent launches could result in a nuclear test, prolonged their largest-ever combined air drills through Saturday.

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Pyongyang launched three short-range ballistic missiles shortly after that option was made public on Thursday, describing it as “a very hazardous and foolish choice.”

Then, at 11:28 pm (14:28 GMT), the North launched about 80 artillery rounds into a marine “buffer zone,” according to Seoul’s military.

The barrage was a “obvious violation” of the 2018 deal that created the buffer zone in an effort to defuse tensions between the two sides, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Pyongyang’s ICBM launch was “illegal and destabilizing,” and Seoul and Washington promised to take further steps to show their “commitment and capability” in the face of the North’s increasing threats.

Pyongyang fired about 30 missiles throughout Wednesday and Thursday, including one that landed near South Korea’s territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol said it was “effectively a territorial invasion”.

Experts and officials have said Pyongyang is ramping up its tests in protest over the US-South Korean drills and as it prepares to conduct another nuclear test, which would be its seventh.

The combined air exercises, known as Vigilant Storm, have been criticized by Pyongyang as “an aggressive and provocative military drill targeting North Korea,” and if they continue, Washington and Seoul will “pay the most terrible price in history.”

The Seoul military also declared that Taegeuk exercise, an annual drill concentrating on “enhancing wartime transition performance” and crisis management, will take performed next week in addition to prolonging Vigilant Storm until Saturday.

The upcoming computer-simulated exercise will be carried out to strengthen “the ability to carry out practical mission capability in preparation for various threats such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons, missiles, and recent provocations,” it said.

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