North Korea fired four short-range ballistic missiles toward the Yellow Sea on Saturday, South Korean officials said, adding to a record number of launches this year that have ratcheted up regional tensions.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff detected the launches from Tongrim County in North Pyongyan Province between around 11:32 a.m. and 11:59 a.m. local time, it said in a statement. The missiles flew about 81 miles at an apogee of 12 miles with a top speed of Mach 5.

The action follows the launch on Wednesday of at least 23 missiles, including the first ballistic one to fly over a nautical border with South Korea, marking the country’s biggest daily barrage under leader Kim Jong Un. On Thursday, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile designed to hit the American mainland, while warning the U.S. of “powerful measures” if it continued joint military drills in the region with South Korea and others.

Prior to the latest test, Kim’s state had fired off about 60 ballistic missiles so far this year, more than twice the amount in any other year during his decade in power.

The U.S. and South Korea have sharpened their rhetoric to deter Pyongyang from further military escalation, warning that using a nuclear weapon against allied nations would result in the end of the Kim regime. The U.S., Japan and South Korea have warned that Pyongyang could soon raise tensions with a nuclear test, which would be its first in five years and seventh overall.

The U.S. and South Korea also said they planned to extend the “Vigilant Storm” military exercises underway – and which North Korea cited as the reason for its recent spate of launches. Two B-1B U.S. strategic bombers staged joint drills with four South Korean F-35A fighter jets Saturday, the Joint Chiefs said.


Earlier Saturday, North Korea’s foreign ministry condemned what it called military provocations from the U.S. and warned that it will respond to any attacks against its sovereignty.

The latest test might be used to advance Kim’s pursuit of miniaturized nuclear warheads that he could mount on missiles to strike the U.S. allies that host the bulk of America’s troops in Asia.

Kim has ignored the Biden administration’s calls for him to return to nuclear disarmament talks that have been stalled for about three years. State media recently said that he reaffirmed his opposition to negotiations with the U.S. after declaring in September that North Korea would “never give up nuclear arms or denuclearize first.”

The North Korean leader is finding space to ramp up provocations and conduct tit-for-tat military moves against the U.S. and its allies as the U.S. focuses on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and China, two long-time partners of North Korea, have veto power at the U.N. Security Council and have shown no intent to punish Kim with extra sanctions.

North Korea has a habit of timing its weapons tests to political events and the latest missile test came as the U.S. faces tests with midterm elections on Tuesday that could determine control of both houses of Congress.

North Korea has bristled for decades at joint military exercises, calling them a prelude to an invasion.

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