South Korea, US expand joint air drills amid North Korea provocation


Seoul: Amid ballistic missile launches from North Korea, South Korea and the United States have agreed to extend their large-scale joint air exercise by another day, Seoul’s defense minister said Thursday after talks with the head of the Pentagon, Yonhap news agency reports.

After North Korea’s provocation, the joint military agreement – ​​which was scheduled to conclude on Friday – was extended by another day.

The allies were scheduled to end the five-day Storm Watch practice on Friday, with about 240 aircraft, including F-35 stealth fighter jets, mobilized over the Korean Peninsula.

But they decided to extend it in response to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday (Seoul time), according to the report.

After his talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington, South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup said the exercises would be extended by one day at the secretary’s direct request.

He noted that the allies have conducted such combined air training every year. This year, however, the scale has become bigger, he added.

Earlier on Thursday, Pyongyang was reported to have fired an unknown ballistic missile into the Sea of ​​Japan. Media had said the missile is believed to be a medium- or long-range missile.

Continuous Missile Launch Unacceptable: Japan’s Kishida

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea’s continued missile launches are absolutely unacceptable.

“Today, North Korea has fired missiles again. The continued missile launches are inexcusable and absolutely unacceptable,” Kishida said in a statement.

Terrible and irrevocable mistake they made: North Korea

North Korea on Thursday night fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, apparently in protest against expanding training.

The North accused the allies of pushing regional security to an “uncontrollable” phase by expanding the practice.

“It is a very dangerous and false choice,” Pak Jong-chon, secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, said in an English-language statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

“The irresponsible decision of the United States and South Korea is pushing the current situation caused by provocative military acts by allied forces to an uncontrollable stage,” he added. “The US and South Korea will know what an irrevocable and terrible mistake they have made.”

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