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US conducts drills with South Korea, Japan after North's missile launch

This handout photo taken on October 4, 2022 and provided by the South Korean Defence Ministry in Seoul shows four South Korean Air Force F-15Ks and four US Air Force F-16 fighters flying over South Korea, during a precision bombing drill in response to North Korea firing an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile over Japan. (AFP PHOTO / South Korean Defence Ministry)

The United States has conducted separate joint military drills with South Korea and Japan, after Seoul said North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) over northern Japan.

The South Korean military said on Tuesday it detected one IRBM launched eastward past Japan, warning Pyongyang of a resolute response.

Later on Tuesday, South Korean and US fighter jets carried out a "precision bombing drill" in response, according to the military.

The war games aimed to demonstrate the allies' "capabilities to conduct a precision strike at the origin of provocations," said South Korea's joint chiefs of staff.

Later on the same day, eight Japanese and four US fighter jets carried out a joint military exercise in airspace west of the country's Kyushu region, according to Japanese military. The forces "confirmed their readiness and demonstrated domestically and abroad the strong determination of Japan and the United States to deal with any situation," it said in a statement.

Pyongyang's Tuesday launch was the country's fifth missile launch in 10 days, and sends a clear message to the United States, according to Park Won-gon, professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha University in Seoul, who spoke to AFP.

The missile launch "put South Korea, Japan, and Guam within range" and showed that Pyongyang could hit US bases with nukes if war broke out on the Korean Peninsula, he said.

The missile launch was also the first time North Korea launched a missile over Japanese territory since 2017.

North Korea maintains that its weapon tests are meant to act as a deterrent against threats posed by the South and its Western allies amid regular war games in the region.

Japan, the US, and South Korea have been ramping up joint military drills to counter Pyongyang's growing nuclear capabilities. On Friday, they staged the first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years.

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