Artillery vehicle

North Korea fires more artillery shells at sea as tensions over weapons testing continue

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired about 100 more artillery shells at sea on Wednesday in response to South Korean live-fire drills in border areas as rivals accuse each other of escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula with weapons testing.

The drills by the two sides come amid heightened animosities over recent North Korean missile tests they call mock nuclear attacks on South Korean and US targets.

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The South Korean military detected artillery fire from a coastal town in western North Korea, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. On Tuesday night, North Korea fired about 100 shells off its west coast and 150 shells off its east coast, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier.

On both days, North Korean shells landed in the northern parts of maritime buffer zones the two Koreas created off their east and west coasts as part of agreements they reached in 2018 to reduce tensions, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South.

North Korea also fired hundreds of shells into the buffer zones on Friday in its largest direct violation of the 2018 agreement.

North Korea’s military said the launches were a warning against what it said were provocative South Korean artillery fire drills along the border earlier this week.

“Our military strongly warns enemy forces to immediately stop this highly irritating act of provocation in the frontline areas,” an unidentified spokesman for the General Staff of the North Korean People’s Army said on Wednesday. in a press release.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said it conducted artillery drills in land border areas as part of its annual military drills. But he said his exercises did not violate the 2018 agreement because his shells did not land in the buffer zones.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff have warned North Korea to immediately cease provocations that threaten peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. He added that he was stepping up his military preparedness and, in coordination with the United States, was closely monitoring North Korea’s movements.

No cases of violence between the two Koreas have been reported. But animosities could linger as North Korea is likely to react to South Korea’s annual “Hoguk” field exercises with its own weapons tests. South Korean officials said the “Hoguk” drills aimed to improve military preparedness against North Korean nuclear and missile threats and involved an unknown number of American soldiers.

North Korea sees regular military training between South Korea and the United States as an invasion rehearsal. He said his recent barrage of missile tests was intended to issue a warning to one of the allies’ earlier exercises involving a US aircraft carrier.

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In parts of the “Hoguk” drills open to media, South Korean and US troops built pontoon bridges over a river southeast of Seoul to let tanks and other armored vehicles pass. South Korea’s military said Wednesday’s training was aimed at dealing with a hypothetical enemy attack that would destroy some of the bridges over the river.

“It has been extremely successful so far and demonstrates the strength of the ROK-US alliance,” said US Army company commander Capt. Sean Kasprisin, using the initials of Korea’s official name. South, the Republic of Korea. “We are definitely stronger with both nations.”

From October 31 to November 4, South Korea and the United States will also hold combined aerial exercises involving some 240 fighter jets, including F-35 fighters operated by the two countries. The drills are designed to inspect the two countries’ joint operations capabilities and improve combat readiness, the South Korean military said on Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a briefing on Wednesday that Beijing hopes all countries concerned will continue to seek a political settlement to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea has tested 15 missiles since resuming testing activities on September 25. One was an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan and demonstrated range capable of reaching the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond.

Some foreign experts say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would eventually aim to use his expanded arsenal of weapons to pressure the United States and others to accept his country as a legitimate nuclear state and lift restrictions. economic sanctions against the North.

The North’s artillery tests attract less outside attention than its missile launches. But its forward-deployed long-range artillery guns pose a serious security threat to the capital, Seoul, about 40 to 50 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) from the border with North Korea.