At least 12 North Korean military planes flew in formation close to the South Korean border on Thursday, prompting U.S. allies to scramble dozens of fighter jets.
A group of eight fighter jets and four bombers operated by North Korea flew in formation near the inter-Korean air boundary at around 2 p.m. local time, officials with the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff told Yonhap. They are believed to have carried out air-to-surface military drills, the officials said.
In response, South Korea mobilized 30 fighter jets and scrambled them to near where North Korea carried out its drills, authorities told Yonhap.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told news outlets that the 12 North Korean warplanes “flew in squadron this afternoon in the South Korean side … to stage a protest.”
“Reportedly, North Korea’s Air Force has not been able to train properly due to the scarcity of fuel, it is extremely unusual for North Korea to have flown 8 fighter jets and 4 bombers,” Cheong Seong-Chang, the head of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, told ABC News.
North Korea has previously sent military aircraft near the border, but Yonhap news agency said this is likely the first time it has mobilized so many warplanes for such a provocative flight and firing exercises.
Tensions have risen sharply on the Korean Peninsula amid North Korea’s recent barrage of missile tests prompted South Korea, the United States, and Japan to conduct joint drills in response.
Earlier Thursday, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters. The launches came after the United States redeployed an aircraft carrier near the Korean Peninsula in response to North Korea’s launch of a nuclear-capable missile over Japan earlier this week.
A TV screen shows a file image of a North Korean missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Sept. 28, 2022. (Ahn Young-joon/AP Photo)
U.S., South Korean, and Japanese destroyers launched joint drills Thursday off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast to hone their abilities to search, track, and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Also, the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group returned to the sea east of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday to stage a naval exercise with Japan and South Korea
President Yoon Suk-Yeol noted tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high, but he pledged that Seoul would remain cautious.
“Since the situation is not easy to deal with, the USS Ronald Reagan returned to our waters at around 8 p.m. yesterday,” Yoon said, reported the Korean Times.
“The public would be worried about the current security circumstances, but the government will not miss a single step in protecting the people based on the strong South Korea-U.S. alliance and the security cooperation between Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo.”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un (L) and sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Inter-Korean Summit at the Peace House in Panmunjom, South Korea on April 27, 2018. (Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)
North Korean Threat
South Korea will face “extermination” if it “adopts military confrontation” against North Korea, top North Korean official Kim Yo Jong said in a threat earlier this week.
“In case south Korea adopts military confrontation against us, our nuclear combat forces are inevitably obliged to carry out its mission,” Kim, the high-ranking sister of dictator Kim Jong Un, said. “If the situation develops to such an extent, terrible attack would be mounted and the south Korean army would have no other choice but to suffer tragic lot of extermination.”