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North Korea launches 180 warplane flights; South Korea scrambles 80 jets including F-35s

Kim Jong Un overseeing North Korea's new tactical guided weapon system test in April 2022. (Korean Central News Agency/Released)
November 04, 2022

Dozens of South Korean warplanes were scrambled Friday after the country detected about 180 military flights over North Korea, the latest in a rapid series of escalations this week as the U.S. and South Korean militaries conduct large joint exercises condemned by the North.

Over the span of four hours Friday afternoon, South Korea tracked about 180 flights by North Korean warplanes flying in North Korean territory, ABC reported. South Korea scrambled about 80 of its own aircraft in response.

The North Korean planes were reportedly detected in the country’s inland areas and along its east and west coasts. But none of the planes crossed the Tactical Action Line, an imaginary line north of the two countries’ borders that South Korea bases operations decisions on.

There were no immediate reports of clashes after South Korea activated dozens of its own planes, including some number of F-35 fighter jets, ABC reported.

The face-off follows a flurry of provocations amid joint aerial exercises the U.S. and South Korea have been conducting this week, called “Vigilant Storm.” 

The drills, which North Korea views as rehearsals for an invasion, involve about 240 warplanes, including F-35 jets that can be equipped for land strike missions, ABC reported.

The drills were extended by one day on Thursday after North Korea tried and reportedly failed to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile, triggering evacuation alerts in northern Japan. After the drills were extended, North Korea fired three missiles and shot about 80 artillery rounds into the sea.

Earlier in the week, North Korea fired 23 short-range missiles, apparently setting a personal record for the most launched in a single day.

Tensions are escalating in the long-term, as well. 

North Korea has fired dozens of missiles this year, and South Korean officials say the country could soon test its first nuclear device in five years. 

The U.S. and South Korea likewise have expanded their drills this year, which were muted in recent years due to the pandemic and former President Donald Trump’s attempts at diplomacy, ABC reported.