N Korea defends missile launches as defence against US threats

Pyongyang says recent ballistic missile launches had not endangered civil aviation or threatened neighbouring countries.

North Korea has defended its recent spate of ballistic missile launches as a legitimate defence against what it called a decades-old threat by United States military forces.

The missile launches had also not harmed the safety of civil aviation or posed a threat to neighbouring countries, North Korea’s State-run KCNA news agency said on Saturday, citing officials and a statement from the country’s aviation authorities.

Pyongyang’s statement comes in response to recent criticism by the United Nation’s civil aviation authority over North Korea’s six missile launches in a 12-day period, including an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan on Tuesday.

“(The missile tests) did not pose any threat or harm to the safety of civil aviation as well as the safety of neighbouring countries and regions,” KCNA reported, citing an aviation administration spokesperson in the country.

“The missile test launch by the DPRK is a regular and planned self-defensive step for defending the country’s security and the regional peace from the US direct military threats that have lasted for more than half a century,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted the North Korea’s national aviation as saying in a statement.

The DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — North Korea’s official name.

Saturday’s statement was a rebuke to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and its recent condemnation of the missile launches, which the UN body said had posed a serious safety risk to international aviation.

North Korea said it considers such criticism “a political provocation of the US and its vassal forces aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” KCNA reported.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have ramped up joint military drills in recent weeks and carried out additional naval exercises involving the US Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier strike group.

Seoul scrambled fighter jets on Thursday in reaction to an apparent North Korean bombing drill near the border between the two countries. The exercise was thought to be the largest such formation of North Korean warplanes near the border.

Analysts say Pyongyang has seized the opportunity of a world distracted by the conflict in Ukraine to conduct ever more provocative weapons tests.

The missile launches are also part of a record year of weapons tests by North Korea and come amid leader Kim Jong Un’s declaration his country is an “irreversible” nuclear power, effectively ending the possibility of denuclearisation talks.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have been warning for months that Pyongyang may also conduct another nuclear test, likely after China’s Party Congress on October 16.

the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier participates in a joint anti-submarine drill among South Korea, the United States and Japan in waters off South Korea's eastern coast in South Korea
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, second from right, participates in a joint anti-submarine drill with the South Korean navy in waters off South Korea’s eastern coast in September 2022 [File: South Korea Defence Ministry via AP]

 

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