Seoul: North Korea fires more than 10 missiles; South Korea then fires three test missiles
Air raid sirens rang out in South Korea after the North fired about a dozen missiles in its direction on Wednesday, at least one of which landed near the rival’s tense sea border. In response, South Korea said it had conducted its own air-to-surface missile tests.
North Korea’s launches came hours after North Korea threatened to deploy itto make the US and South Korea “pay the most horrible price in history” as they have intensified their fiery rhetoric targeting the ongoing large-scale military exercises between their rivals.
The South Korean military said North Korea launched more than 10 missiles of various types off its east and west coasts.
Early Wednesday afternoon, the South Korean military said its own warplanes fired three precision-guided missiles near the rivals’ eastern border. It said the launches were in response to a spate of North Korean missile tests earlier Wednesday.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement earlier Wednesday that they had spotted three short-range ballistic missiles fired from the eastern coastal city of Wonsan in the north. One of the missiles was said to have landed 26 kilometers from the rivals’ sea border.
The landing site is in international waters, but still well south of the extension of the state line. The South Korean military said it was the first time since the countries were partitioned in 1948 that a North Korean missile had landed so close to the sea border.
In 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells at a South Korean front-line island and allegedly torpedoed a South Korean naval ship, both off the west coast of the peninsula, killing a total of 50 people.
“This is very unprecedented and we will never tolerate it,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a separate statement.
The North Korean missile’s landing site is also 167 kilometers northwest of the South Korean island of Ulleung, where an air raid alert was sounded at the time.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said South Korea will not tolerate North Korean provocations and will deal with them severely in close coordination with the United States. It said South Korea had strengthened its surveillance position over North Korea.
Animosity has run high on the Korean peninsula in recent months as North Korea tested a range of nuclear-capable missiles and passed legislation allowing the pre-emptive use of its nuclear weapons in a variety of situations. Some experts still doubt that North Korea could use nuclear weapons first in the face of US and South Korean forces.
North Korea has argued itsWashington and Seoul should warn of their series of joint military drills, which they see as an invasion rehearsal, including this week’s drills involving some 240 warplanes.
In a statement released early Wednesday, Pak Jong Chon, a secretary of the ruling Labor Party who is believed to be a close confidante of leader Kim Jong Un, called the so-called Vigilant Storm Air Force drills “aggressive and provocative”.
Pak also accused the Pentagon of framing a collapse of the North Korean regime as a key policy goal, in an apparent reference to the Pentagon’s recently released National Defense Strategy report. The report said any nuclear attack by North Korea on the United States or its allies and partners “will result in the end of this regime.”
He slammed South Korean military leaders for “garbage” comments threatening to destroy North Korea if it uses nuclear weapons.
South Korea’s military has warned North Korea that using its nuclear weapons would set it on a “path of self-destruction.”
“If the US and South Korea fearlessly attempt to deploy forces against (North Korea), the special assets of the (Northern) forces will immediately carry out their strategic mission,” Pak said, apparently referring to his country’s nuclear weapons.
“The US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most terrible price in history,” he said.
US and South Korean officials have steadfastly stated that their drills are defensive in nature and that they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
The White House took a stand against North Korea’s saber-rattling on Tuesday, reiterating drills are part of a routine training schedule with South Korea.
“We reject the notion that they serve as a provocation. We have made it clear that we have no hostile intentions towards (North Korea) and urge them to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.
North Korea “still does not respond. At the same time, we will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to limit the North’s ability to advance its illicit weapons programs and threaten regional stability,” Watson said.