Washington and Seoul conducted “a precision striking exercise.”

That hadn’t happened since 2017, at the height of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea on Tuesday fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that flew over Japan, prompting Tokyo to activate its warning system and urge residents of certain regions to seek shelter.

In response to the Pyongyang fire, South Korean and U.S. warplanes conducted precision attack drills Tuesday, Seoul said, with two South Korean warplanes dropping bombs on a virtual target in the Yellow Sea: the Korean F-15K.

A new course record

These drills were aimed at demonstrating their ability to “deliver a precision punch [les sites à] the origin of the provocations,” described the Seoul chiefs of staff. About 28,500 American soldiers are present in South Korea to protect them from the North.

According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the device used by Pyongyang could be a Hwasong-12 missile, used by the regime the last two times a missile flew over Japan. If so, that shot would set a new distance record, which Tokyo estimates at around 4,500 km. North Korea, which has nuclear weapons, has ramped up plans to modernize its armaments this year.

An “irreversible” nuclear force

Notably, it launched an ICBM for the first time since 2017 and reviewed its legislation to make its status as a nuclear power “irreversible”. Last week it fired four short-range ballistic missiles.

The shooting came as Seoul, Tokyo and Washington conducted trilateral anti-submarine drills for the first time in five years on Sept. 30, days after US and South Korean naval forces conducted large-scale maneuvers well off the peninsula.

“A significant escalation”

North Korea, subject to UN sanctions over its weapons programs, generally seeks to maximize the geopolitical impact of its tests by timing it when it sees the best. “If Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan, it could represent a significant escalation of its recent provocations,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“North Korea always starts with a low-level provocation and gradually raises the level to attract global media attention,” said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “By launching the missile over Japan, they are showing that their nuclear threat is not just directed at South Korea. »

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