South Korea on Wednesday fired missiles across the country’s de facto maritime border with North Korea after a ballistic missile launched by Pyongyang’s forces landed near its coast, as tensions in the peninsula remain high over the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint military drills in the region.
North Korea fired nearly a dozen ballistic missiles on Wednesday, one of which flew towards the South Korean island of Ulleung and triggered air raid sirens, Yonhap news reported.
The missile eventually landed more than 100 miles away from the island, but South Korea’s military noted it was only 35 miles from the country’s east coast and well past the demarcated maritime border between the countries known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
In response, South Korean fighter jets fired three precision-guided missiles across the NLL, all of which landed in the East Sea.
The retaliatory firings took place after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol termed Pyongyang’s launches as “provocation” and said he had ordered his military to swiftly “ensure North Korea pays a clear price.”
The U.S. and South Korean militaries are currently engaged in one of the largest combined arms joint exercises carried out in the region, called “Vigilant Storm.” The exercises involve mock attacks by both sides 24 hours a day, and feature around 240 warplanes from both sides including America’s most advanced jet, the F-35. Pyongyang has expressed anger over these exercises, which it claims is a rehearsal for an invasion into its territory. On Tuesday, North Korea implied it was willing to use nuclear weapons to ensure U.S. and South Korean forces in the region “pay the most horrible price in history.” Pyongyang ended a self imposed moratorium on nuclear and long range ballistic missile tests earlier this year and has carried out a record number of missile launches this year.
Late on Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson told the press: “We reject the notion that they serve as any sort of provocation. We have made clear that we have no hostile intent towards (North Korea) and call on them to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy…At the same time, we will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to limit the North’s ability to advance its unlawful weapons programs and threaten regional stability.”
2 Koreas exchange missile tests near tense sea border (Associated Press)