The US and South Korea respond with missile fire to the North Korean launch | International

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The United States and South Korea have responded this Tuesday with the launch of four missiles to the firing, hours before, of a North Korean ballistic missile that flew over Japanese territory and forced several hundred Japanese residents to take shelter in underground shelters or in buildings.

The North Korean test, the fifth firing of a rocket in the last ten days by the Pyongyang regime, came after a tour of the US Vice President, Kamala Harris, through the region, and during joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. . The rocket launched, according to experts, could be an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, which has traveled the longest distance reached by a North Korean missile: 4,500 kilometers, with a maximum height of 1,000 kilometers. It was the first time in five years that a North Korean rocket had flown over Japan.

That Kim Jong Un's regime has taken this step has caused concern in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington: the fear is that it could be the prelude to an atomic test by Pyongyang; Signs of activity have been detected at the Punggye-ri nuclear base for months. It would be the first in five years and the seventh in the history of the regime.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, and the President of the United States, Joe Biden, had a telephone conversation, in which both condemned in the "strongest terms" the shooting, which they consider a "clear" violation of the resolutions of the Security Council. UN security and a threat to the Japanese people.

US fighter-bombers and Japanese military planes carried out joint maneuvers in Japanese airspace on Tuesday, in a warning gesture towards Pyongyang. A double gesture by the United States. Simultaneously, his Indo-Pacific Command forces have also completed an exercise alongside troops from the South.

In it, and from the city of Gangneung, on the South Korean east coast, soldiers from the two nations have launched ground-to-ground ballistic missiles of the ATACMS system - each force launched two - in response to the North's shot. The four projectiles were launched in the direction of the Sea of ​​Japan/East Sea and reached the targets set, according to a statement from the South Korean General Staff cited by Efe.

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Washington has also called an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council to address what it considers a violation of the resolutions of that body. But, given the divisions that exist between the members of the Council, aggravated by the war in Ukraine, the session will not go beyond the symbolic. In previous similar episodes, Russia and China have blocked any message condemning the Kim Jong Un regime.

Since the beginning of this year, North Korea has returned to the path of military threats and frequent missile tests, after ending the moratorium that was imposed at the end of 2017, when it declared its nuclear program completed. Then began a stage of rapprochement with Seoul and contacts with the United States that had their most mediatic moments in the first summits between leaders of the two countries: Kim Jong Un on one side and, on the other, Donald Trump.

But those contacts did not go beyond representing nothing more than a very expensive photographic staging of a handshake between two leaders who are different in everything except their weakness for authoritarianism. At the first meeting, in Singapore in June 2018, the two leaders signed a joint statement with little content. The second, in Hanoi in February 2019, ended in resounding failure when it became clear that both arrived with opposing positions. The third, improvised on the fly and in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas in June 2019, was nothing more than an anecdote.

Since then, negotiations have languished. With an economy damaged by natural disasters, the pandemic and the closure of borders that Kim decreed against the coronavirus, the regime ordered to intensify the ballistic and nuclear weapons program. Last year he claimed that he had tested a hypersonic missile. So far in 2022, it has completed numerous firings, including that of its longest-range missile, nicknamed "the monster", although both the United States and South Korea consider that launch to be a failure.

Now Washington fears that Pyongyang may be preparing a new nuclear test. “There have been indications in the past that North Korea is preparing a test site. If it does, in our opinion it would represent a very serious escalation that would put regional and international security and stability at risk," said Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder.

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