Explosion of Seoul’s retaliatory response after the success of a North Korean missile

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A malfunctioning South Korean ballistic missile exploded when it fell to the ground Wednesday during a live-fire exercise with the United States that was in retaliation for North Korea’s successful launch. The day before a weapon flew over Japan and had range to strike the US territory on Guam.

The explosion and subsequent fire sent panic and confusion to the residents of the port city of Gangneung, who were already wary of increasingly provocative weapons tests by rival North Korea. Their concern grew that it was only a North Korean attack because military and government officials had offered no explanation for the blast for hours.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said there were no reports of injuries from the blast, which involved a short-range Humo-2 missile that crashed inside an air base on the outskirts of the city.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity during a key briefing, said the missile’s warhead did not explode during the crash and that the fire was caused by the combustion of a missile thruster. The official said the missile fell shortly after takeoff and that no civilian facilities were affected.

Kwon Seong-dong, a ruling party lawmaker who represents Gangneung, wrote on Facebook that “a weapons system run by taxpayers’ blood-like money ended up threatening our people” and called for the military to conduct a thorough investigation into the missile failure. He also criticized the military for not issuing a failure notice while maintaining a media ban on joint exercises.

“It was an irresponsible reaction,” Kwon wrote. “They don’t even have an official press release yet.”

The South Korean military acknowledged the glitch hours after netizens sounded the alarm about the explosion and posted videos on social media showing an orange ball of flame emerging from an area they described near an air force base. She said she was investigating the cause of the missile’s “abnormal flight”.

Officials with the fire department and city council in Gangneung said emergency workers were sent to the air force base and a nearby military base in response to calls about a possible explosion, but military officials returned.

The US and South Korean militaries are conducting joint exercises to demonstrate their ability to deter a North Korean attack on the South. During Tuesday’s exercises, they conducted bombing runs with F-15 attack aircraft using precision munitions and fired two missiles each as part of the Army’s tactical missile system.

The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is scheduled to return to waters east of South Korea on Wednesday to demonstrate the “firm will” of allies to counter North Korea’s persistent provocations and threats, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in Seoul. The carrier was part of last week’s exercises with South Korea and Japan.

The domestic Hyumoo-2 is an essential component of South Korea’s preventive and retaliatory strike strategies against North Korea. Some versions of the missile are similar in design to Russia’s Iskander missiles, which also inspired a domestic variant in North Korea as it expands its arsenal of nuclear-capable short-range weapons designed to evade South Korea’s missile defenses.

North Korea’s successful launch of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile hours before the exercises was the country’s most provocative weapons appearance since 2017 and the fifth round of weapons tests within 10 days.

This missile has a range capable of hitting Guam, which is home to one of the largest military facilities the United States maintains in Asia. In 2017, North Korea also tested missiles capable of striking the continental United States.

Japan’s lower house of parliament, the most powerful in the two-chamber parliament, adopted a resolution on Wednesday condemning North Korea’s launch, saying overflights over Japan posed a “serious and imminent” threat to the country’s security.

South Korea’s foreign ministry said the country’s deputy nuclear envoy, Lee Tae-woo, met with his US counterpart Jong Park in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss North Korea’s latest launches and pledged to strengthen trilateral cooperation with Tokyo to counter the threat and bring Pyongyang. Back to the negotiating table.

North Korea has fired nearly 40 ballistic missiles at about 20 different launch events this year, taking advantage of Russia’s war on Ukraine and the resulting deep division in the UN Security Council to speed up its weapons development without risking further sanctions.

Its goal is to develop an entire nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the mainland United States and its allies while gaining recognition as a nuclear power and extracting concessions from those nations.

The United States, Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland called an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on the latest launch in North Korea. The open session was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. Wednesday.

Washington’s nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang has stalled since 2019 due to differences over the firing of tough US-led sanctions against North Korea and the North’s disarmament steps.

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Writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed reporting from Tokyo.

See more AP Asia-Pacific coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific

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