South Korea said it scrambled warplanes in response to 180 North Korean military flights near the countries’ shared border on Friday, and Pyongyang again demanded that the United States and South Korea halt “provocative” air exercises.
The North Korean manoeuvres follow the firing of more than 80 rounds of artillery overnight and the launch of multiple missiles into the sea on Thursday, including a possible failed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
North Korean aircraft were detected in multiple areas north of the “tactical action line”, near the demarcation line between the two Koreas, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The `tactical line’ is drawn north of the military border and is used as a basis for South Korean air defence operations, a South Korean official said.
South Korea scrambled 80 aircraft, including F-35A stealth fighters, in response, while about 240 jets participating in the Vigilant Storm air exercises with the United States continued their drills, the military said.
North Korea fired 23 missiles on Wednesday — a record for a single day.
The series of launches this week prompted the United States and South Korea to extend the Vigilant Storm military drills, which have angered Pyongyang.
North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying the United States should stop its “provocative” air drills and warned that “sustained provocation is bound to be followed by sustained counteraction”.
The Pentagon said on Friday the drills with South Korea were currently only being extended till Nov 5.
“We remain in close coordination with our ROK ally on any additional changes and the security environment on the Korean peninsula,” a US military spokesman said.
Earlier, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers Party, said Washington and Seoul had made a very dangerous decision by extending the exercises, and were “shoving” the situation out of control.
A flight of 10 North Korean warplanes made similar manoeuvres last month, prompting the South to scramble jets.