North Korea fires more missiles as U.S. flies bombers over South:
South Korea scrambled 80 aircraft, including F-35A stealth fighters, after detecting about 180 North Korean military flights north of the two countries’ border. Handout | Getty Images News | Getty Images
On Saturday, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles into the sea as the United States sent two supersonic bombers streaking over South Korea in opposing displays of military might. The North has test-fired more than 30 missiles this week, including an intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday that triggered evacuation alerts in northern Japan, and flew large numbers of warplanes inside its territory in an angry reaction to a massive combined aerial exercise between the United States and South Korea. The South Korean military said two B-1B bombers trained with four U.S. F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-35 jets during the last day of the “Vigilant Storm” joint air force drills that wraps up Saturday. It marked the first time since December 2017 that the bombers were deployed to the Korean Peninsula. The exercise involved around 240 warplanes, including advanced F-35 fighter jets from both countries. North Korea hates such displays of American military might at close range, which it says create a seriously “unstable atmosphere” in the region.
Iran acknowledges sending drones to Russia for first time:
This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupyansk, Ukraine. (Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate via AP, File)
On Saturday, Iran’s foreign minister acknowledged for the first time that his country has supplied Russia with drones, insisting the transfer came before Moscow’s war on Ukraine that has seen the Iranian-made drones used in bombing Kyiv. The comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian come after months of confusing messaging from Iran about the weapons shipment, as Russia has been using them to target Ukrainian energy infrastructure and civilian targets. Previously, Iranian officials had denied arming Russia in its war on Ukraine. Just earlier this week, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani called the allegations “totally unfounded” and reiterated Iran’s position of neutrality in the war. Even so, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard has vaguely boasted of providing drones to the world’s top powers. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has extolled the efficacy of the drones and mocked Western hand-wringing over their danger. During state-backed demonstrations to mark the 1979 US Embassy takeover on Friday, crowds waved placards of the triangle-shaped drones as a point of national pride. As he acknowledged the shipment, Amirabdollahian claimed on Saturday that Iran was oblivious to the use of its drones in Ukraine. He said Iran remained committed to stopping the conflict.
Rail resumes between Russia and North Korea, with 30 horses on first train:
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's train at Khasan station, near Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok, in August 2011. | REUTERS
Russia and North Korea have restarted train travel for the first time since railway journeys were cut during the COVID-19 pandemic. A freight train, carrying 30 thoroughbred Orlov Trotter horses, left Russia’s far east through the Khasan-Tumangan crossing, according to Russia’s veterinary service. The Orlov Trotter is Russia’s most famous horse and is known, according to the veterinary service, for its scampering trot. “The animals, 5 stallions, 25 mares, were quarantined in the city of Suzdal, Vladimir region, and then arrived at the Khasan railway checkpoint in three specially equipped trucks for subsequent shipment to the DPRK,” Russia’s state veterinary service said in a statement, using the acronym for North Korea’s full name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Russia’s RIA state news agency said the journey marked the first train to travel to North Korea since COVID-19 restrictions were imposed in 2020. It said medicines would follow in later cargoes. It was not immediately clear why 30 Orlov Trotter thoroughbreds were needed in North Korea, though it may be related to Kim Jong Un being a keen horseman. Russian customs data shows North Korea has spent thousands of dollars on thoroughbred horses from Russia in previous years.