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North Korea fired a ballistic missile just days after a US aircraft carrier arrived for joint exercises

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, the military in Seoul said, just days after a US aircraft carrier arrived for joint exercises with the South in a show of force against Pyongyang. South Korea had earlier detected signs that the North was preparing to launch a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the presidential office said on Saturday, a weapon Pyongyang last tested in May. Sunday’s launch is the latest in a record-breaking series of weapons tests this year by nuclear-armed Pyongyang, including the launch of a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile.

In May, the North test-fired a short-range ballistic missile from Sinpo, a major naval shipyard in North Korea. North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea,” Seoul’s chief of staff said early Sunday morning, without giving further details. The probable launch of a ballistic missile was also confirmed by the Japanese Coast Guard, citing information from the Tokyo Defense Ministry.

Vessels please be alert for new information and if you spot any foreign objects, do not approach them but inform the coast guard,” the coast guard said. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said the object appeared to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. South Korea’s hawk President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May, promised to step up joint military exercises with the United States after years of failed diplomacy with North Korea under his predecessor.

On Friday, the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan and vessels from its strike group docked in the southern port city of Pusan, part of a push by Seoul and Washington to operate more US strategic assets in the region. Yoon is also scheduled to meet with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday when she visits Seoul this week, following visits by President Joe Biden in May and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month. The USS Reagan will participate in joint exercises off the east coast of South Korea this month.

Washington is a key security ally of Seoul and has deployed about 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect it from the North. The two countries have long held joint exercises that they say are purely defensive, but North Korea views them as training for an invasion. Pyongyang could show its strength while a US aircraft carrier visits South Korea for defense exercises,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

But North Korea’s main tests are primarily part of a long-term campaign to assert offensive military capabilities. South Korean and American officials have been warning for months that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is about to conduct another nuclear test. The isolated regime has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006. Its latest and most powerful in 2017 which Pyongyang claimed was a hydrogen bomb  had an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.

North Korea may be delaying its seventh nuclear test out of respect for the upcoming Chinese political conference, which Xi Jinping is carefully preparing to extend his leadership,” Easley said. But Pyongyang’s self-control has its limits.

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