US warns of regime’s ‘end’ as N Korea fires off missiles

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North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea on Friday in its first ballistic weapons launches in two weeks, as the U.S. military warned the North that the use of nuclear weapons “will result in the end of that regime.”

South Korea’s military detected the two launches from the North’s eastern coastal Tongchon area around midday on Friday, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It said both missiles flew about 230 kilometers (140 miles) at a maximum altitude of 24 kilometers.

The statement said South Korea strongly condemns the launches, calling them “a grave provocation” that undermines regional peace and violates U.N. Security Council resolutions banning any ballistic activities by North Korea.

The U.S. Indo Pacific Command said the launches highlighted the “destabilizing impact” of North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The Japanese Defense Ministry said it also detected the launches and that the type of missiles used and their flight information were still being analyzed.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said its top nuclear envoy held separate phone talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts soon after the launches. It said the three agreed to strengthen trilateral coordination on North Korea while repeating their calls for the North to stop weapons tests and return to talks.

The back-to-back launches, the North’s first ballistic missile tests since Oct. 14, came on the final day of South Korea’s annual 12-day “Hoguk” field exercises, which also involved an unspecified number of U.S. troops this year. Next week, South Korean and U.S. air forces plan to conduct a large-scale training as well.

North Korea sees such regular drills by Seoul and Washington as practice for launching an attack on the North, though the allies say their exercises are defensive in nature.— Agencies

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