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NKorea fires missile before US-SKorea drills

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North Korea reportedly fired a short-range ballistic missile into the Yellow Sea, possibly sending a message to the U.S. and South Korea ahead of their planned military exercises set to begin next week.

The South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the launch from the North’s western port city of Nampo at 6:20 p.m. local time, The Korean Times reported. The Yellow Sea separates the Korean peninsula from China’s east coast.

“While strengthening its monitoring and vigilance, our military is maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff texted to reporters, according to The Korean Times.

South Korea and the U.S. are set to begin exercise Freedom Shield on Monday, believed to be the largest joint military drills between the allies in at least five years. The drills will be done over an 11-day period and “will integrate elements of live exercises with constructive simulations,” according to a news release from United States Forces Korea, which will participate along with the South Korean miliary and personnel from Combined Forces Command and United Nations Command.

Tensions with North Korea have increased over the past year, with the North steadily increasing its number of test launches of cruise and ballistic missiles. In February, shortly after North Korea launched two ballistic missiles off its east coast, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, warned against the increased presence of U.S. strategic assets on the Korean peninsula.

“We are carefully examining the influence it would exert on the security of our state,” she said in a statement. “The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces’ action character.”

On Tuesday, Kim issued a similar warning, according to North Korean state media, a day after the U.S. and South Korean air forces conducted a combined exercise with the redeployment of the U.S. B-52H Stratofortress long-range bomber over the Korean Peninsula.

“We keep our eye on the restless military moves by the U.S. forces and the South Korean puppet military and are always on standby to take appropriate, quick and overwhelming action at any time according to our judgment,” said Kim, whose title is vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

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