North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea on Monday as the United States and South Korea kicked off eight weeks of joint military drills.
The nuclear-armed North Korean People’s Army (KPA) denounced the exercises, saying they would bring the Korean peninsula “towards the brink of war”, according to Agence France-Presse, which cited a report by the North’s official KCNA news agency.
“The only means to cope with the aggression and war by the US imperialists and their followers is neither dialogue nor peace,” the KPA was quoted as saying. “They should be dealt with only by merciless strikes.”
The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North’s missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre rattling, AFP said.
The South Korean military said the two North Korean missiles, with a range of around 500 kilometers, were fired from the western port city of Nampo and traversed the country before falling into the sea off the east coast.
Describing the tests as a “provocation” in response to the start of the military exercises, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it remained “vigilant against any additional launches”.
The largest element of the two South Korea-US drills that began Monday is Foal Eagle, an eight-week exercise involving air, ground and naval field training, with around 200,000 Korean and 3,700 US troops, AFP said.
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