SEOUL, Nov 4 (Reuters) – South Korea said it scrambled fighter jets in response to 180 North Korean military flights near the countries’ shared border on Friday, and Pyongyang again demanded the United States and South Korea stop “provocative” air exercises.
The North Korean maneuvers follow the firing of more than 80 artillery shells overnight and the launch of multiple missiles into the sea on Thursday, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that failed.
The US called a public meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday, accusing Russia and China of providing North Korea with “sweeping protection” from further UN Security Council action and saying the pair had “bent over backwards” to justify Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launch. Launches.
Representatives of both China and Russia have accused the United States of fueling tensions with large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea.
China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said that instead of increasing tensions, the United States should create conditions for the renewal of meaningful dialogue with North Korea.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the 10 elected members of the Security Council, which do not include China or Russia, which have permanent seats, condemned North Korea’s missile launches and called on the body to “speak with a united voice on this issue. Matter.”
North Korean aircraft have been spotted in several areas north of the “tactical action line” north of the military demarcation line between the two Koreas, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The flights took place between 11 a.m. (0200 GMT) and 3 p.m. The virtual line is drawn north of the military border and serves as a base for South Korea’s air defense operations, a South Korean official said.
He declined to give the virtual line’s distance from the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), but local news reports said it was 20 to 50 kilometers (12 to 31 miles).
South Korea responded by scrambling 80 planes, including F-35A stealth fighters, while about 240 planes participating in the Storm Vigilant air exercise with the United States continued their exercises, the military said.
North Korea fired at least 23 missiles on Wednesday – a record for a single day.
The series of launches this week prompted the United States and South Korea to extend the Vigilante Storm military exercises, which have angered Pyongyang.
North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying the United States should stop its “provocative” air exercises and warned that “persistent provocation must be followed by persistent countermeasures.”
The Pentagon said Friday that the drills with South Korea now only last until Nov. 5.
“We remain in close coordination with our ally in the ROK on any further changes in the security environment on the Korean Peninsula,” a US military spokesman told Reuters.
Earlier, Park Jong-chun, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said Washington and Seoul had made a very dangerous decision by extending the drills and were “pushing” the situation out of control.
The high tension on the Korean peninsula comes against the background of the fear that North Korea may renew the nuclear bomb test for the first time since 2017.
A senior US administration official said Thursday that although the United States has said since May that North Korea was preparing to resume nuclear tests, it was unclear when it might conduct such a test.
The United States believes that China and Russia have leverage to persuade North Korea not to resume nuclear bomb tests, the official told Reuters.
In recent years, the UN Security Council has been divided over how to deal with North Korea and in May, China and Russia vetoed a US-led push for additional UN sanctions in response to North Korea’s missile launch.
The statement from the North Korean Foreign Ministry referred to the UN meeting and said that North Korea conducted “legitimate self-defense measures”.
A flight of 10 North Korean fighter jets performed similar maneuvers last month, prompting South Korea to scavenge aircraft.
In a joint statement on Friday, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations said any nuclear test or other reckless action by North Korea must be met with a swift, united and strong international response.
Meeting in Washington on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sap pledged to seek new steps to demonstrate the alliance’s “resolve and capabilities” in the face of repeated provocations by North Korea.
Reporting by Josh Smith in Seoul; Additional reporting by David Brunstrom and Chris Gallagher in Washington; Edited by Jack Kim, Gerry Doyle and Alistair Bell
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