Seoul, Oct 14 (EFE).- Tensions in the Korean peninsula intensified Friday with a fresh ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang, accompanied by aerial maneuvers and artillery fire along the border in response to a military drill using live fire by Seoul.
At 1.49am local time, North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile – its ninth projectile in 20 days – from the outskirts of the capital, which traveled some 700km (435 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
Hours earlier, the South Korean air force detected at least ten North Korean aircraft conducting a two-hour drill near the border, forcing Seoul to deploy fighter planes for a possible interception maneuver.
Moreover, just half an hour after the missile launch, North Korean troops fired some 170 rounds of artillery into maritime areas near the inter-Korean border.
A South Korean military official told local Yonhap agency that they sent a message to the North that the drills violated the 2018 agreement to not conduct maneuvers near the border or use use live fire, and urged Pyongyang to not desist from repeating it.
The North Korean authorities, on their part, said in a statement that the missile launch was a military countermeasure in response to so called provocative actions by South Korea, which carried out artillery drills on Thursday.
South Korea announced Friday its first sanctions against North Korea in five years in response to recent missile launches by Kim Jong-un’s regime.
“The Government of (South Korea) strongly condemns the recent missile provocations carried out with unprecedented frequency, and involving the use of tactical nuclear weapons against us,” a statement from the foreign ministry said, explaining the new punishments.
The new sanctions affect 15 individuals and 16 North Korean entities, according to the text.
Among the sanctioned individuals are up to four members of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, a North Korean state organization that, according to the United Nations, is responsible for the research and development of advanced weapons. The rest belong to entities dedicated to importing materials that can be used for the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.
Among the 16 entities mentioned there are logistics companies or companies dedicated to the trade of electronics, steel or crude oil.
North Korea has now conducted nine missile launches since Sep.25, as it seeks to test its tactical nuclear weapon systems in response to recent maneuvers by US aircraft carriers in the Korean peninsula.
Most analysts believe that tension in the peninsula has almost reached 2017 levels, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and former US President Donald Trump engaged in serious escalations in the area.
However, this time Pyongyang appears to have developed even more sophisticated weapon systems.
Against this backdrop, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has said he is contemplating about seeking further US military deployment in the region if the North runs a fresh nuclear test, which both Washington and Seoul consider imminent.
According to satellite images, the regime has for months been preparing to carry out a fresh atomic test in Punggye-ri, in the northeast, which would be the first since 2017.
At the moment, Seoul has announced that its annual Hoguk military maneuvers with US troops will kickoff on Monday and continue until Oct.28.
The exercises, which will simulate responses to possible North Korean missile and nuclear weapons attacks, are likely to trigger more responses from Pyongyang. EFE