North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Toward South Korean Island

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North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Toward South Korean Island

Following up on a statement from its military official, North Korea launched at least more than 25 missiles and 100 artillery shells in a day.

North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile Toward South Korean Island
Credit: Pixabay

North Korea launched more than 25 missiles including short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), toward the waters off its east and west coasts, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on Wednesday.

The first three ballistic missiles flew from the Wonsan area of Gangwon Province at around 8:51 a.m. KST. One of the SRBMs was heading toward South Korea’s Ulleung County, although it landed in the waters near the area – 167 kilometers away from Ulleung County – in the end. Air raid sirens went off in the county, the first time that has happened in South Korea since air raid sirens went off on Baengnyeong Island when the North launched a long-range missile in 2016.

In the hours after the South’s JCS confirmed the North’s first three ballistic missile launches in the morning, it updated the count of missile launches several times. North Korea tested dozens of missiles, including its ballistic missiles and surface-to-air missiles, over the course of 10 hours.

As Wednesday marked the first case of North Korea launching a ballistic missile across the Northern Limit Line – the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas – on its east coast since the two Koreas divided, the South Korean government and military reacted swiftly to respond to the North’s direct missile threat to its territory.

Calling the North’s missile test targeting the south of the Northern Limit Line “unusual” and “unacceptable,” the South’s JCS vowed to “respond decisively” against the North’s missile threats. South Korea’s military stressed that Pyongyang’s provocation is “intolerable” and vowed to take a firm military readiness posture to protect the lives of the people.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council after his JCS confirmed North Korea’s missile launches. Yoon called the North’s provocation “an effective violation of [South Korean] territory” and ordered strict measures to be taken swiftly in order to make the North pay a clear price for its provocation.

Following up on Yoon’s order, the South’s military deployed its warplanes to fire three air-to-surface missiles toward the north of the Northern Limit Line as its corresponding measure.

Since Yoon took office in May, Seoul has actively responded to North Korea’s missile launches in a bid to show its military capabilities and emphasize the extended deterrence of the United States in the region. The South Korean and U.S. militaries fired surface-to-air missiles last month as a response to a North Korean intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan.

After South Korea’s military response to the North’s first violation of the Northern Limit Line with a ballistic missile, North Korea fired at least 100 artillery shells toward the buffer zone on its east coast and missiles — including six surface-to-air missiles — toward the waters off its east and west coasts.

Under the military agreement made between then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un during the inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in September 2018, the two sides cannot take any direct measure that could cause military conflict. North Korea’s artillery shots on Wednesday are a clear violation of the inter-Korean military agreement – but as Pyongyang has already breached the agreement several times in the past four years, this military agreement is no longer effectively deterring the two sides’ escalating moves against each other.

North Korea’s missile tests took place hours after Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), one of the North’s main state media, published a statement from Pak Jong Chon, a secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, on Tuesday.

“If the U.S. and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK’s armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the U.S. and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history,” Park was quoted as saying.

Along with the statement from a spokesperson for the North’s Foreign Ministry published by KCNA on Monday, Pak again conveyed Pyongyang’s belligerent stance on the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, claiming that the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military air drill, known as Vigilant Storm, is “aggressive and provocative.”

“It should be noted that in the present situation, it is a big mistake to accept this as a threat warning only,” Pak said. “The U.S. and South Korea should stop their frantic ‘military games’ and provocative remarks.”

Seoul and Washington have said that the joint military drills are purely defensive but Pyongyang has deemed them a rehearsal for invasion and used them as a main rationale for its missile tests.

Since the U.S. Defense Department published the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, which warned that any nuclear attack by Pyongyang “will result in the end of that regime,” North Korea has responded by upping its belligerent rhetoric and provocations with its missile programs. South Korea and the U.S. have also scaled up their joint military drills amid the North’s warnings. The scale of the tit-for-tat measures between the two Koreas will likely continue to increase in the coming weeks – which could raise the danger of the skirmishes on the Korean Peninsula again.