North Korea flies fighter jets near border after missile tests as tensions with South escalate

Seoul, South Korea

New tensions erupt between the Koreas, with the North flying warplanes near their shared border and launching the latest in a series of missiles and the South staging a live-fire artillery exercise.

North Korean planes approached the no-fly zone straddling the border between 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 12:20 a.m. Friday, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a move Pyongyang followed hours later with its 27th missile launch of the year.

At one point, the North’s planes were just 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the northern edge of the military demarcation line that runs down the center of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, the JCS said.

South Korea responded by jamming fighter jets, including its high-end F-35s.

North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency said the actions were in response to 10 hours of South Korean live-fire artillery drills near the border.

The South Korean military confirmed to CNN that an artillery exercise took place 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the border, but said it did not violate an agreement with the North regulating such exercises. Seoul instead claims that Pyongyang breached the agreement earlier Friday by firing 170 artillery rounds into the sea off its west coast.

« Artillery fire in maritime buffer zones is a flagrant violation of the September 19 military agreement, and the launching of short-range ballistic missiles is also a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, » he said. said the JCS.

“We strongly warn against repeated provocations by North Korea and urge [North Korea] to stop them immediately.

The flurry of military activity on both sides of the border came just hours after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned his nuclear forces were fully prepared for « real war ».

« Our nuclear combat forces…have again proven their full readiness for real war to bring the enemies under their control, » Kim said in comments reported by KCNA.

Kim’s fiery statement – his first on North Korea’s missile program in several months – came after he reportedly oversaw the test of long-range cruise missiles over waters west of the Korean peninsula, according to KCNA.

On Monday, North Korean state media broke six months of silence on this year’s round of missile tests, saying they were intended to demonstrate Pyongyang’s willingness to fire tactical nuclear warheads at potential targets. in South Korea.

The tests showed that the country’s forces were « fully ready to strike and annihilate the objects attached to the planned locations within the given time », KCNA said.

North Korea has been building up its nuclear missile forces in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, stepping up its activities since the last of three meetings in 2019 between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump, who did not reached no agreement.

On Friday, in response to repeated missile tests from Pyongyang, the South imposed its first unilateral sanctions on the North since 2017.

The sanctions target 15 people who « helped bring in supplies related to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction funding and missile development, » South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a press release.

The sanctions also target 16 organizations that participated in North Korea’s evasion of UN sanctions, the ministry said.

The South Korean government expects the sanctions to have « the effect of blocking illegal funds transactions with these North Korean agencies and individuals and reminding the domestic and international community of the risks involved in transacting with them », the ministry said.

So far, South Korea has independently sanctioned 109 individuals and 89 agencies.

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