North Korea fires ballistic missiles as Antony Blinken visits Seoul

By John Mercury March 18, 2024

North Korea has launched ballistic missiles as US secretary of state Antony Blinken was visiting Seoul.

Three short-range ballistic missiles were fired into the sea on Monday, as Mr Blinken visited for a conference on advancing democracy.

It is the first time in two months that North Korea has launched weapons of that type.

South Korea said that several short-range missiles flew about 186 miles (300km) and landed off the North’s east coast after being fired from the capital Pyongyang between 7.44am and 8.22am local time (around 11pm Sunday UK time).

The South condemned the launch as a “clear provocation” and said it was sharing information with the US and Japan.

Mr Blinken was among senior officials from around the world who were in South Korea attending the Summit for Democracy conference, which begins today. He will also meet his South Korea counterpart, foreign minister Cho Tae-yul.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida also condemned the launch after his country’s coastguard reported the missile launch.

Calling the launch a violation of UN resolutions, Mr Kishida added: “North Korea’s series of actions threaten the peace and security of our region and the international community, and are absolutely unacceptable.”

Recent weeks have seen North Korea’s military conducting exercises with conventional weapons – often overseen by dictator Kim Jong Un.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un attended a military demonstration last week. Pic: Reuters
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un attended a military demonstration last week. Pic: Reuters

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Pyongyang’s show of force comes after the militaries of South Korea and the US finished ten days of large-scale annual joint military drills last week.

The summit is an initiative of US President Joe Biden, aimed at discussing ways to stop the erosion of rights and freedoms globally, as well as democratic backsliding.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

Also, over the weekend, the South Korean military mobilised attack helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles and marines in drills aimed at increasing troop numbers to reinforce western islands near the sea border with their northern neighbours. North Korea shelled the islands back in 2010.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul. Pic: AP
US secretary of state Antony Blinken, left, and South Korean foreign minister Cho Tae-yul. Pic: AP

Before today, the last ballistic launch took place on 14 January, when North Korea said it fired intermediate-range hypersonic missiles.


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