North Korea launched a volley of missiles, the most in one day, on Wednesday before capping off the record spree Thursday with an apparently failed intercontinental ballistic missile launch, according to multiple reports.
The Thursday firing of an ICBM came in conjunction with up to five short-range missiles, making a total of a record 29 launches within the space of two days, according to Reuters. The U.S. and South Korea opted to extend their largest-ever aerial drills in response to the historic frequency of North Korean missile launches throughout Wednesday and Thursday.
“A strong combined defense posture of the ROK-U.S. alliance is necessary under the current security crisis that is escalating due to North Korean provocations,” the South Korean air force said in a statement, using the initials for the country’s formal name.
North Korean government spokesperson Pak Jong Chon called the decision to extend the U.S. – South Korea “Vigilant Storm” drills beyond their scheduled end date on Nov. 4 “a very dangerous and false choice” in a statement.
“The U.S. and South Korea will get to know what an irrevocable and awful mistake they made,” the statement said, blaming the U.S. and allies for provoking North Korea to take further retaliatory action.
South Korean and U.S. stealth aircraft have simulated attacks as part of the drills, according to Reuters. South Korean officials also say they expect Pyongyang to practice detonating a nuclear bomb, possibly within a matter of days.
The Japanese defense ministry lost track of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a system capable of carrying a nuclear warhead across oceans, somewhere over the Sea of Japan, indicating a failed launch, Reuters reported.
South Korean and Japanese officials did not provide details on why the ICBM launch failed, according to Reuters. Former Japan Maritime Self Defense Force fleet commander Yoji Koda said the loss of a radar signal suggested “at some point in the flight path there was some problem for the missile and it actually came apart.”
North Korea launched 17 missiles, both short-range ballistic missiles and suspected surface-to-air missiles, Wednesday morning, followed by six more in the afternoon, South Korea’s military said, according to the Associated Press. One of the launches crashed into waters just 16 miles from the two countries’ maritime border off the coast of South Korea, the first to have come so close in over 70 years.
The United States condemned both sets of launches.
The highest number of missiles North Korea has launched within the space of 24 hours was 8 prior to Wednesday, according to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. While North Korea had launched 46 missiles by Oct. 28, already skyrocketing past the historical record.
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