(Seoul) North Korea fired several cruise missiles on Wednesday, announced the South Korean army, which is currently conducting large-scale joint exercises with the United States.

“ The South Korean army has detected several cruise missiles launched in the East Sea ” by North Korea, indicated the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), referring to the Korean name of the sea from Japan.

“ Detailed characteristics are being analyzed by South Korean and US intelligence,” the statement added.

After a record year of weapons testing and growing nuclear threats from Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington have stepped up defense cooperation and kicked off their largest joint military drills in five years on March 13. years.

Dubbed “Freedom Shield”, these maneuvers are due to end on Thursday.

The South Korean military said it would “ carry out joint exercises planned under Freedom Shield, adopting a firm joint defense stance ”.

North Korea views all such exercises as rehearsals for an invasion of its territory and has repeatedly warned that it will respond to them in an “overwhelming” manner.

Wednesday’s launch comes about a week after Pyongyang test-fired its most powerful missile, the Hwasong-17, its second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test in 2023.

Northern state media described the launch of the ICBM as a response to ongoing “frenzied” exercises between the United States and South Korea.

In 2022, Pyongyang described its status as a nuclear power as “ irreversible ”. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently called for an exponential increase in its production of weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons.

At the beginning of March, he also ordered his army to intensify its military maneuvers in view of a “ real war ”.