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US warns North Korea it could increase ‘steps that are taken in response’ if it continues missile launches

By Ellie Kaufman and Jennifer Hansler, CNN

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that if North Korea continues “down this road” of provocation following its ballistic missile launch over Japan on Tuesday, “it will only increase the condemnation, increase the isolation and increase the steps that are taken in response to their actions.” Blinken made the comments during a press conference in Santiago, Chile, as a part of his week-long trip to South America.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Tuesday that flew over and past Japan, causing Japan to warn its citizens to take shelter. Blinken condemned the latest missile launch, calling it “dangerous and reckless.”

“We strongly condemn the DPRK’s dangerous and reckless launch of a long-range missile that flew over Japan, endangering Japanese citizens,” Blinken said. “I spoke almost immediately to my Japanese and Korean counterparts, and I think you’ve seen that we are working very closely together, both on a bilateral basis but also on a trilateral basis, the United States, Korea and Japan, to demonstrate and strengthen our defensive and deterrent capabilities in light of the threat from North Korea.”

In response, the US conducted joint military exercises with both South Korea and Japan separately Tuesday. US Marine Corps fighters joined Japan Air South Defense Force fighters in a “bilateral exercise over the Sea of Japan on Oct. 4,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.

South Korea and the United States conducted multiple joint exercises in response, first with a precision bombing exercise Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) announced in a statement.

A South Korean F-15K fighter jet fired two Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs at a virtual target in a firing range west of the Korean Peninsula, JCS said. A JDAM is a precision guided air-to-surface weapon that employs GPS to hit high priority fixed and moving targets, according to the US Air Force.

Then, the US and South Korea test fired four ATACMS ground to ground missiles off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The launch of the ATACMS was to demonstrate that the US and allies have “the military capabilities at the ready to respond to provocations by the North,” John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications said on CNN.

“This is not the first time we’ve done this in response to provocations by the North to make sure that we can demonstrate our own capabilities,” Kirby said. “We want to see the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he (Kim Jong Un) hasn’t shown an inclination to move in that direction, quite frankly he’s moving in the opposite direction by continuing to conduct these missile tests which are violations of security council resolutions.”

Blinken reiterated the US has asked North Korea to engage in dialogue instead of continuing provocative actions like theses missile launches.

“We’ve called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in a sustained and substantive dialogue. This is something we’ve proposed going back many months. Unfortunately, the DPRK’s response was to launch more missiles, but we are taking appropriate defense and deterrence steps with allies and partners,” Blinken said.

The North Korean missile launched Tuesday had a flight distance of about 4,500 km (2,796 miles), an altitude of about 970 km (602 miles), and a top speed of about Mach 17, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.

North Korea has now fired its most ballistic missiles in a single year since Kim Jong Un took power in 2012, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry and a CNN tally. Tuesday’s marks the 23rd launch this year including both ballistic and cruise missiles.

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CNN’s Yoonjung Seo, Gawon Ba and Brad Lendon contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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