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US defense chief calls North Korea’s missile launches ‘illegal’

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin holds a news conference as part of the NATO Defense Ministers' meeting in Brussels, Belgium on June 16, 2022. ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )
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Nov 04, 2022 - 01:28 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that Washington will work to protect allies in the region after North Korea’s “illegal” ballistic missile launches.

Austin said the US stands with South Koreans during this time of national mourning, referring to a deadly crowd surge that killed more than 150 people last weekend.

“It’s highly unfortunate that the DPRK has chosen to interrupt this solemn period with the illegal and destabilizing launch of an intercontinental continental ballistic missile last night as well as additional missile launches today,” said Austin said at a Pentagon news conference with his South Korean counterpart Lee Jong-sup.

“We’ve consulted with minister Lee and we’ve decided to extend Vigilant Storm, which is our launch schedule combining training exercise to further bolster our readiness and interoperability,” he said.

Austin noted that the US remains fully committed to the defense of South Korea and said that “our extended deterrence commitment is firm and includes a full range of our nuclear, conventional and missile defense capabilities”.

The South Korean defense minister said the North’s nuclear and missile threats are a “grave security challenge” for not only the Korean peninsula but also the region and the international community.

“We agreed to further strengthen the allies’ capabilities and posture,” he said.

The meeting came one day after North Korea launched around two dozen missiles, apparently in response to five-day large-scale combined air drills by South Korea and the US that kicked off Monday, further escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Wednesday’s missile launches by North Korea make up 11% of all missile launches by the country since 1953, according to BNO News in the Netherlands.

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