South Korean Defense Secretary Lee Jong-sup (R) and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (C) speak in front of a B1 bomber during a visit November 3, 2022 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. (Photo by POOL/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/Getty Images via AFP)
SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) – North Korea launched artillery barrage at a maritime “buffer zone” overnight, Seoul’s military said on Friday, after a record-breaking spate of launches that included a failed ICBM test.
Seoul and Washington, which have warned Pyongyang’s recent launches could culminate in a nuclear test, extended their largest-ever joint air drills until Saturday in response to the spate of projectiles.
Shortly after that decision was announced on Thursday, Pyongyang fired three short-range ballistic missiles and called the move “a very dangerous and wrong decision.”
About 80 artillery shells were then fired from the north at 23:28 (1428 GMT) into a maritime “buffer zone,” the Seoul military said.
The barrage was a “clear violation” of the 2018 agreement that established the buffer zone to ease tensions between the two sides, Seoul chiefs of staff said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described Pyongyang’s ICBM launch as “illegal and destabilizing” and Seoul and Washington vowed to take new measures to demonstrate their “determination and capabilities” against the North’s growing threats.
Pyongyang fired about 30 rockets Wednesday and Thursday, including one that landed near South Korea’s sovereign waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said it was “effectively a territorial invasion”.
Experts and officials said Pyongyang is stepping up its testing in protest at US-South Korea exercises and is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, which would be its seventh.
Pyongyang has described the joint air exercises, dubbed “Vigilant Storm,” as “aggressive and provocative military exercises against” North Korea and threatened that Washington and Seoul would “pay the most horrible price in history” if they continued.
In addition to extending Vigilant Storm through Saturday, the Seoul military announced the Taegeuk exercise, an annual exercise focused on “improving wartime transition performance” and crisis management, would be held next week.
The upcoming computer-simulated exercise will be conducted to “bolster the ability to execute practical mission skills in preparation for various threats such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons, missiles and recent provocations,” it said.
© Agence France-Presse