National Security

‘End Of That Regime’: North Korea Launches Two More Ballistic Missiles Before Imminent Nuclear Weapons Test

(Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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North Korea fired two more short-range ballistic missiles on Friday, contrasting with joint displays of force by South Korean military and U.S. troops stationed in the country.

The launches, the first of ballistic missiles in two weeks, come amid escalated nuclear rhetoric from Pyongyang that the U.S. military warned “will result in the end of that regime,” the Associated Press reported. South Korea called the launches “a grave provocation,” although they did not pose an immediate threat to Seoul, as the U.S. and South Korean forces completed yet another set of military drills intended to deter the communist regime from using a nuclear or long-range missile against Western forces.

The missiles flew roughly 140 miles into the sea midday local time, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, according to the AP. North Korea last launched ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads on Oct. 14.

South Korea’s top official for nuclear issues held separate phone calls with U.S. and Japanese counterparts following the launch, the foreign ministry said, according to the AP. They agreed to strengthen defense cooperation among the three allies. (RELATED: North And South Korea Just Opened Fire On One Another. Here’s Why)

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said it was monitoring the launches, which “highlight the destabilizing impact” of Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The United Nations Security Council has condemned the programs and levied heavy sanctions on North Korea’s illicit ballistic missile activities.

The launches herald an expected nuclear test sometime before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, which, if it occurs, would be its seventh test and the first since 2017.

Friday also marked the last day of South Korea’s “Hoguk” military field exercises that involved maneuvers to enhance combined operations between South Korea and U.S. troops. The two militaries plan to practice large-scale joint drills with South Korea’s air force next week, according to the AP.

North Korea has characterized the drills as practice for an attack, although the allies say they are necessary to deter future belligerence from the North, according to the AP.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts vowed an unprecedented response to North Korea’s expected nuclear test at a three-way meeting on Wednesday. Sherman urged Pyongyang to rein in further “provocations,” calling them “reckless and deeply destabilizing for the region,” according to Reuters.

The three foreign ministers warned North Korea they would respond with “unparalleled” action when Pyongyang follows through with the nuclear weapons test, Reuters reported.

North Korea portrayed previous launches as simulating the firing of tactical warheads at South Korean targets and a show of strength and readiness as the U.S., Japan and South Korea conducted military drills nearby, CNN reported.

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