At least 23 missiles were fired into the sea by North Korea on Wednesday. One of them landed less than 60 kilometres off the coast of South Korea, which caused South Korea to issue a rare air raid warning and fire its own missiles in response.
It was the first time a ballistic missile landed near the waters of the South, and it was also the most missiles the North had ever fired in one day.
The missile landed outside of South Korea’s territorial waters, but south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which is a disputed maritime border between the two countries. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called this an “effective act of territorial encroachment.”
The South’s military said that in response, three air-to-ground missiles were fired into the sea north of the NLL. An official said that one of the weapons used was an AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER, which is a U.S.-made “stand-off” precision attack weapon with a 360 kg (800 lb) warhead that can fly for up to 270 km (170 mi).
Yoon’s office had promised a “quick and firm response” so that North Korea would “pay the price for provocation.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said that the North Korean weapon was one of three short-range ballistic missiles that were fired into the sea from the North Korean coastal area of Wonsan. Later, the JCS said that as many as 14 other types of missiles had been fired from the east and west coasts of North Korea.
The JCS said that at least one of the missiles landed 26 kilometres south of the NLL, 57 kilometres from the South Korean city of Sokcho on the east coast, and 167 kilometres from the island of Ulleung, where air raid warnings were sent out.
An Ulleung county official told Reuters, “We heard the siren at about 8:55 a.m., and everyone in the building went down to the evacuation area in the basement.” “We stayed there until about 9:15 when we heard that the projectile had landed in the open sea.”
A person who lives in the south of the island said that no warnings were given.
South Korea’s military said that the North also fired more than 100 rounds of artillery from its east coast into a military buffer zone set up as part of a military deal with the South.
The firing goes against what was agreed to in 2018, the JCS said.
Nuclear-armed This year, North Korea has tested a record number of missiles, and officials in Seoul and Washington say the country is now ready to test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017.
The launches happened just hours after Pyongyang told the US and South Korea to stop large-scale military exercises, saying that “military rashness and provocation can no longer be tolerated.”
Even though Yoon called for a week of national mourning after more than 150 people died in a crowd surge in Seoul over the weekend, the US and South Korea started one of their largest joint military air drills on Monday. The exercises are called “Vigilant Storm,” and hundreds of warplanes from both sides act out fake attacks 24 hours a day. go to site
Major Military Drills
North Korea had said that its recent launch spree was a response to drills by the allies.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said that the number of warplanes involved in Vigilant Storm showed that the exercise was “aggressive and provocative” and was aimed at North Korea. He said that even the name sounded like Operation Desert Storm, which the U.S. led against Iraq in the 1990s.
“The hostile forces’ unreasonable moves toward military conflict have made the Korean peninsula a dangerous place,” Pak said in a statement that was carried out by the state news agency KCNA.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Tuesday in Washington that the drills were “purely defensive” and that the U.S. had made it clear to North Korea that it had no plans to attack the country.
Price also said that the US and its allies had made it clear that there would be “deep costs and deep consequences” if North Korea resumed nuclear testing, which would be a “dangerous, destabilising step.” He didn’t say more about what would happen.
On Wednesday, another State Department official said that the US “condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches and its reckless decision to fire a missile below the de facto maritime boundary with the Republic of Korea.”
Foreign Minister Park Jin called the North Korean missile launch “unprecedented” and a “grave act of military provocation” in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Park’s office said in a statement that the two officials were against the launch and agreed to work together to deal with threats from North Korea.
Launching Missiles In New Ways
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea said that some air routes over the sea between North Korea and Japan would be closed until Thursday morning because of the launches.
“Our military will never put up with this kind of provocation from North Korea, and we will respond in a strict and firm way in close cooperation with South Korea,” JCS said in a news release.
Yasukazu Hamada, the defence minister of Japan, said that the government thinks at least two ballistic missiles were fired from North Korea, one going east and the other going southeast.
He told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday morning that the first one flew 150 kilometres and reached a height of about 150 kilometres. The second one flew 200 kilometres and reached a height of 100 kilometres.
Hamada said that North Korea’s actions are completely unacceptable because they threaten the peace and stability of Japan, the rest of the region, and the rest of the world.
“North Korea has been firing off missiles at a rate we have never seen before and in ways, we have never seen before,” he said.