South Korea scrambles jets as Kim Jong Un sends warplanes near border

SEOUL – South Korea scrambled fighter jets overnight Thursday after North Korean warplanes flew close to the border dividing the two countries. The move, which was widely seen as provocative even by Pyongyang’s standards, came as the North launched another ballistic missile early Friday morning, the latest of several recent weapons tests by Kim Jong Un’s regime.

North Korean aircraft flew as close as 7 miles north of a de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Pyongyang’s warplanes were also detected just over a dozen miles north of a land border. The incidents took place between late Thursday and early Friday, and about ten of Pyongyang’s war planes were involved.

The South Korean military said it “conducted an emergency sortie with its superior air force, including the F-35A” fighter jets, but that no clashes were reported.

Seoul also said that Pyongyang had fired artillery shells into maritime buffer areas established in 2018 as part of inter-Korean peace efforts.

“The [North] Korean People’s Army sends a stern warning to the South Korean military inciting military tension in the front-line area with reckless action,” a spokesman for the General Staff of North Korea’s army said, according to a statement carried by the state-run Central News Agency.

The official said the “countermeasures” were in response to earlier South Korean artillery fire that lasted some 10 hours. The South Korean Defense Ministry said that it had conducted artillery drills at a site just south of the border with North Korea but that the exercises did not violate a 2018 military agreement.

North Korea says it views recent military drills by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a military threat. The allies say that the training exercises are defensive in nature. Tensions continue to build while nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled. Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a cruise missile test and pledged to strengthen the regime’s nuclear arms program to ward off enemies. Kim said his nuclear forces were fully prepared for “actual war,” according to state media.

On Friday, South Korea also imposed unilateral sanctions against North Korea for the first time in roughly five years. The measures target 15 North Korean individuals and 16 organizations involved in nuclear and missile development, according to the South’s Foreign Ministry.

The short-range ballistic missile that North Korea launched Friday was fired at about 1:49 a.m. toward waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to the South Korean military. The missile flew some 435 miles and reached an altitude of about 31 miles, the JCS said.