North Korea and South Korea trade missile launches as tensions rise even more

North Korea and South Korea trade missile launches as tensions rise even more
North Korea and South Korea trade missile launches as tensions rise even more

Seoul, South Korea – Air raid sirens sounded on a South Korean island and residents were evacuated to underground shelters after North Korea fired a dozen missiles in its direction on Wednesday, at least one of which landed near the tense maritime border of rivals. South Korea quickly responded by carrying out its own missile tests in the same border area.

Separately, South Korea’s military said Pyongyang fired more than 100 artillery shells from the north east coast into the maritime buffer zone between the two Koreas on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported. The Joint Chiefs of Staff in the South said it was a violation of the 2018 agreement that created the zone.

The missile launches came hours after North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons to get the US and South Korea to ‘pay the most horrific price in history’ as they escalate their fiery rhetoric targeting ongoing South Korean-American military exercises they see as a rehearsal of invasion.

They also came hours after the White House rebuffed Pyongyang’s saber rattle, reiterating the drills are part of a routine training schedule with South Korea.

People watch a television report about North Korea firing a ballistic missile off its east coast, in Seoul, South Korea, November 2, 2022.

KIM HONG-JI / REUTERS

The North’s barrage of missile tests also came as the world’s attention focused on South Korea following a weekend Halloween tragedy that saw more than 150 people killed in a wave of crowds in Seoul in the country’s biggest disaster in years.

South Korea’s military said the North launched more than 10 missiles of various types off its east and west coasts on Wednesday.

One of the missiles – a ballistic weapon – was flying towards Ulleung Island in South Korea before landing 104 miles northwest of the island. The South Korean military later issued an air raid alert on the island, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. South Korean media released photos showing islanders moving to underground shelters.

Hours later on Wednesday, the South Korean military said it had lifted the air raid alert on the island.

This missile landed 16 miles from the rivals’ sea border. The landing site is in international waters but far south of the nations’ maritime border extension, off the east coast of South Korea. South Korea’s military said it was the first time a North Korean missile had landed so close to the maritime border since the countries were divided in 1948.

“This is unprecedented and we will never tolerate it,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a separate statement.

In 2010, North Korea bombed a frontline South Korean island off the peninsula’s west coast, killing four people. But the weapons used were artillery rockets, not ballistic missiles, the launch or testing of which is prohibited by multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

Later Wednesday, South Korean warplanes launched three precision-guided air-to-surface missiles near the eastern sea border to show their determination to crack down on North Korean provocations. The South Korean military said the missiles landed in international waters the same distance 16 miles north of the extended sea border as the North Korean missile fell earlier on Wednesday.

He said he remains ready to score “a landslide victory” against North Korea in potential clashes.

“North Korea firing missiles in a way that triggers air raid sirens appears to be intended to threaten South Koreans to pressure their government to change policy,” Leif said. -Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “North Korea’s expansion of military capabilities and testing is worrisome, but offering concessions on alliance cooperation or nuclear recognition would make matters worse.”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier identified three of the North Korean weapons launched as ‘short-range ballistic missiles’ fired from the North eastern coastal town of Wonsan, including one that landed near the sea border.

North Korean short-range weapons are designed to strike key installations in South Korea, including US military bases there.

In an emergency meeting with senior security officials, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered officials to take swift and unspecified action to ensure North Korea suffers the consequences of his provocation. He said he would view the landing of the North Korean missile near the border as “a virtual violation of (our) territorial waters”.

At the South Korean emergency meeting, “participants lamented the provocations committed during our period of national mourning and stressed that this clearly showed the nature of the North Korean government,” according to the South Korean presidential office.

Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that at least two ballistic missiles fired by North Korea were showing a possibly “irregular” trajectory. This suggests the missiles are the highly maneuverable, nuclear-capable KN-23 missile from the North, which was modeled after the Russian Iskander missile.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has called North Korea’s continued missile testing “absolutely unacceptable”.

US and South Korean officials told CBS News that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is preparing to conduct an atomic test as soon as he continues to develop a tactical nuclear weapon. A nuclear test would signal that Kim has successfully expanded his weapons program through the Trump and Biden administrations and despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We think they are ready to go. All you have to do is give Kim a thumbs up,” a senior US State Department official told CBS News.

A tactical nuclear device is designed for potential battlefield use.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of the private Sejong Institute in South Korea said the danger of armed clashes between the Koreas off their western or eastern coasts was increasing. He said South Korea must provide “proportional responses” to North Korean provocations, not “overwhelming responses”, to prevent tensions from spiraling out of control and possibly lead the North to use its tactical nuclear weapons.

Animosities on the Korean peninsula have been running high in recent months, with North Korea tests series of nuclear-capable missiless and pass legislation authorizing the preventive use of its nuclear weapons in a wide range of situations. Some experts still doubt that North Korea would first use nuclear weapons against US and South Korean forces.

North Korea has argued that its recent weapons tests were intended to issue a warning to Washington and Seoul about their series of joint military exercises that it sees as a rehearsal for an invasion, including this week’s drills. involving approximately 240 combat aircraft.

In a statement released early Wednesday, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party and considered a close confidant of leader Kim, called the air force’s so-called Vigilant Storm drills “aggressive and provocateurs”.

“If the United States and South Korea try to use their armed forces against (North Korea) without any fear, the special means of the (North) armed forces will accomplish their strategic mission without delay,” Pak said. , apparently referring to his country’s nuclear weapons.

“The United States and South Korea will face a terrible bargain and pay the most horrific price in history,” he said.

US and South Korean officials have firmly stated that their exercises were defensive in nature and that they had no intention of attacking North Korea.

. Korea North Korea South exchange launches missiles then voltages increase again

. North Korea South Korea trade missile launches tensions rise

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