North Korea fires missile, vows 'fiercer' response to U.S., allies
North Korea has conducted a record number of such tests this year
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Thursday as it warned of "fiercer military responses" to U.S. efforts to boost its security presence in the region with its allies, saying Washington is taking a "gamble it will regret".
North Korea has conducted a record number of such tests this year, and also fired hundreds of artillery shells into the sea more recently as South Korea and the United States staged exercises, some of which involved Japan.
South Korea’s military said the ballistic missile was launched from the North’s east coast city of Wonsan at 10:48 a.m. (0248 GMT), flying 240 km (150 miles) to an altitude of 47 km at the speed of Mach 4.
The latest launch came less than two hours after North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, slammed a Sunday trilateral summit of the United States, South Korea and Japan, during which the leaders criticised Pyongyang’s weapons tests and pledged greater security cooperation.
At the talks, U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed a commitment to reinforce extended deterrence and defend the two Asian allies with a "full range of capabilities", including nuclear weapons.
Choe said the three countries’ "war drills for aggression" failed to rein in the North but would rather bring a "more serious, realistic and inevitable threat" upon themselves.
"The keener the U.S. is on the ‘bolstered offer of extended deterrence’ to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities ... the fiercer the DPRK’s military counteraction will be," Choe said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
She referred to her country by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
"The U.S. will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret," Choe added.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries carried out missile defence drills after the North’s latest launch, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, strongly condemning it.
"We urge an immediate halt of North Korea’s series of ballistic missile launches, which is a grave provocation damaging peace and stability," the joint chiefs said in a statement.
The United States has said since May that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017, but its timing remains unclear.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo said in a joint statement after the summit that Pyongyang’s nuclear testing would incur a "strong and resolute response."
Choe said the North’s military activities are "legitimate and just counteractions" to the U.S.-led drills.
South Korea’s Unification Minister Kwon Young-se, who handles intra-Korea affairs, said the North might postpone its nuclear test for some time, citing China’s domestic political schedule.
"North Korea has also achieved some political effects by codifying its nuclear law in August, so it might not have immediate needs for a nuclear test," Kwon said in an interview with Yonhap news agency released on Thursday.