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North Korea fires short-range missiles, South Korea issues airstrike alert

The launches follow Pyongyang’s warning about ongoing military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

South Korea issued a rare airstrike warning for residents of an eastern island after North Korea launched three ballistic missiles into the sea, including one that landed less than 60 km (37 miles) off South Korea’s coast. .

Wednesday morning’s launch, which was detected by the South Korean military and Japanese coast guard, came hours after Pyongyang demanded the United States and South Korea halt ongoing large-scale military exercises, saying that “such provocation and military recklessness can no longer be tolerated”. .

The missiles were launched from the area around Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast, and South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it issued an airstrike warning for Ulleung Island around the same time.

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The JCS said at least one of the missiles landed 26 km (16 miles) south of the Northern Limit Line, a disputed inter-Korean sea border. The missile landed just 57 km (35 miles) from the South Korean city of Sokcho on the east coast and 167 km (104 miles) from Ulleung.

The Yonhap news agency in South Korea quoted an official on the island as saying that employees took refuge in a basement when the airstrike warning for Ulleung was broadcast on national television.

North Korea has carried out an unprecedented number of weapons tests this year, and there are hopes that it may resume nuclear testing soon.

Pyongyang argues that its weapons are necessary for “self-defense” and that the recent tests are a warning to Washington and Seoul about joint military exercises that it considers an invasion rehearsal.

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This week’s exercises, dubbed Vigilant Storm, began Monday and are some of the largest by the two allies, involving some 240 warplanes from both sides carrying out simulated strikes 24 hours a day.

The White House says such drills are part of the US’s routine training program with South Korea.

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“We reject the notion that they serve as any kind of provocation. We have made it clear that we have no hostile intentions toward the DPRK and ask them to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Tuesday, using the official name of North Korea. North, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. . “The DPRK remains unresponsive. At the same time, we will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to limit the North’s ability to advance its illegal weapons programs and threaten regional stability.”

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