In what President Yoon Suk-yeol described as “essentially a territorial invasion,” North Korea fired more than 10 missiles on Wednesday, one of which came down close to South Korea’s territorial waters.
In what experts claimed was part of an “aggressive and threatening” response by Pyongyang to the extensive joint air maneuvers that the United States and South Korea are presently conducting, it also fired an artillery barrage into a sea “buffer zone.”
One short-range ballistic missile breached the Northern Limit Line, which serves as the de facto maritime border between the two nations. As a result, Ulleungdo residents were given a rare warning to take refuge in bunkers.
When hostilities in the Korean War came to an end in 1953, the military claimed it was the “first time since the peninsula was divided” that a North Korean missile had come thus near to the South’s territorial waters.
In a statement released by his office, it was noted that President Yoon “pointed out today that North Korea’s provocation is an effective territorial invasion by a missile that over the Northern Limit Line for the first time since the divide.”
The military reported that the missile that was closest to South Korea fell in waters barely 57 kilometers (35 miles) east of the mainland, calling the occurrence “extremely unusual and intolerable.”
Soon after, the South Korean military claimed it had launched three air-to-ground missiles into the water in the direction of the northern portion of the maritime border between the two nations.
Ulleungdo received an air attack warning following the North Korean missile launch. The warning instructed citizens to “evacuate to the nearest underground shelter” and was broadcast on national television.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South Korean military first claimed to have discovered the launch of three short-range ballistic missiles.
However, it later reported that North Korea had launched “different varieties” of missiles, numbering over 10, “today toward the east and west.”
The National Security Council was convened by President Yoon, who gave the directive to take “rapid and stern actions so that North Korea’s provocations pay a clear price.”
On order to “ensure passenger safety in the routes to the United States and Japan,” South Korea stopped some flight routes over the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, and advised local airlines to divert.
The most recent test-firing by Pyongyang occurred as hundreds of warplanes from both sides participated in the largest-ever joint air drills between Seoul and Washington, known as “Vigilant Storm.”
High-ranking North Korean official Pak Jong Chon reportedly described the exercises as confrontational and provocative on Wednesday, according to a report in state media.
The exercises’ name, according to Pak, was inspired by Operation Desert Storm, the US-led military offensive against Iraq in 1990–1991 after it occupied Kuwait.
“The special means of the DPRK’s military forces will carry out its strategic objective without delay,” he stated, “if the US and South Korea attempt to employ armed forces against the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) without any fear.”
The United States and South Korea will pay the most terrible price,
According to Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, North Korea’s missile launches on Wednesday seemed to be “the most aggressive and threatening armed demonstration towards the South since 2010.”
He continued, “It is currently a hazardous and unstable situation that may result in armed war.”
A North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean naval ship Cheonan in March 2010, killing 46 servicemen, including 16 who were doing their conscription.
Two marines, both young conscripts, were killed when the North shelled a South Korean border island in November of that same year.
Following a recent barrage of launches, which the North claimed to be tactical nuclear rehearsals, came Wednesday’s missile tests.
Washington and Seoul have frequently warned that the missile launches could result in Pyongyang conducting its seventh nuclear test.
“Pyongyang appears to have finished building its most potent deterrent. This is a severe threat, said Park Won-gon, an Ewha University professor, to AFP.
Park continued, “The North also feels confident in its nuclear capabilities.”
The North’s most recent launches occurred as South Korea entered a period of national mourning following the death on Saturday of more than 150 people, largely young women in their 20s, in a crowd crush in Seoul.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP that it demonstrates “North Korea’s clear priorities.”
The largest-ever combined air drills between Seoul and Washington are also taking place, so Pyongyang likely believes it has no cause to contemplate the Itaewon disaster.