US, South Korea Conduct Interception Drills Following Multiple Missile Tests by North Korea

Kos Temenes
By Kos Temenes
February 24, 2024Asia & Pacific
US, South Korea Conduct Interception Drills Following Multiple Missile Tests by North Korea
In this handout image released by the South Korean Defense Ministry, two U.S. B-1B Lancer strategic bombers, four South Korean Air Force F-35 fighter jets and four U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter jets fly over South Korea during the "Vigilant Storm" joint air drill at an undisclosed location in South Korea on Nov. 5, 2022. (South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images)

South Korea and the United States conducted a joint missile-interception drill over the Korean Peninsula on Feb. 23, South Korea’s air force reported. The drill was a response to a slew of North Korean weapons tests, which the regime initiated this year.

So far this year, North Korea has engaged in multiple brazen attempts to flex its military muscles in the region. The tests reportedly involved low altitude cruise missiles, designed to overcome opponents’ missile defenses, which according to analysts, could be used by the regime to strike U.S. aircraft carriers as well as U.S. military bases in Japan.

Cruise missiles are among a growing number of weapons that North Korea and its allies are developing, adding to the country’s vast number of ballistic missiles designed to be fired from land and sea.

The joint drill involved fifth-generation stealth F-35A fighter jets from both South Korea and the United States, in addition to other fighter jets from South Korea, according to a statement by South Korea’s air force. F-35As were deployed by the United States into South Korea from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on Feb. 21, it added.

The North Korean regime has intensified its weapons tests over the last couple of years, in an attempt to add more clout to future diplomatic negotiations with its western rivals, experts have said.

However, it has sparked a staunch response from the United States, and allied South Korea, which have expanded their military exercises and a trilateral training involving Japan.

Top diplomats from the three allied nations agreed to reinforce their joint response capability against North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats during a G20 meeting in Rio De Janeiro on Feb. 22, whereby South Korea, the United States and Japan would coordinate to block the North’s financing for its nuclear program, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said.

North Korea, meanwhile, will likely double down on its previous missile tests and combative disposition in light of the upcoming presidential elections in both South Korea and the United States this year, in order to manifest its position and subsequent global recognition as a nuclear state.

Some experts have noted the move could be part of the North’s agenda to free itself from U.S.-imposed economic sanctions.

As North Korea is becoming more audacious in its approach by advancing its nuclear arsenal, concerns have been raised that this may lead to an eventual military provocation against the South, although a full-scale attack seems currently unlikely due to the military superiority of the United States and allied South Korea.

The United States, along with South Korean officials, have issued stark warnings against North Korea’s socialist regime, led by Kim Jong Un, whereby they emphasized that any nuclear attack against either country would be met with a response that would mark the end of Kim’s totalitarian government.

Kim has issued multiple belligerent statements toward South Korea, including recently declaring that he no longer aims for reconciliation with the neighboring country, as well as publicly denouncing South Korea as an enemy of the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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