South Korea and the U.S. early Monday launched eight surface-to-surface missiles into the East Sea in response to North Korea launching eight ballistic missiles into the waters off its east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, according to Yonhap News agency. It was already Monday in South Korea.
“The South Korea-U.S. combined firing of the ground-to-ground missiles demonstrated the capability and posture to launch immediate precision strikes on the origins of provocations and their command and support forces,” the JCS said in a press release.
“Our military strongly condemns the North’s series of ballistic missile provocations and seriously urges it to immediately stop acts that raise military tensions on the peninsula and add to security concerns,” it added.
North Korea’s actions came a day after South Korea and the United States wrapped up their first combined military exercise involving an American aircraft carrier in more than four years.
North Korea has conducted 18 weapons tests this year involving dozens of missiles, more tests than in 2020 and 2021 combined.
The country fired missiles Sunday from the Sunan area of Pyongyang, the capital, and three other locations, the South Korean military said.
The missiles were launched within a 37-minute period and flew about 68 to 416 miles, the South Korean military said in a statement. It said it “sternly urged North Korea to stop serious provocations that harm peace and stability” on the Korean Peninsula.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office last month, has vowed to take a tougher line against the North and agreed with U.S. President Joe Biden at a May summit in Seoul to upgrade joint military drills and their combined deterrence posture.
An official from South Korea’s Defence Ministry confirmed eight Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) had been fired.
North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles, fired towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday, were likely its largest single test and came a day after South Korea and the United States ended joint military drills.
North Korea, which is several weeks into battling its first known outbreak of COVID-19, has criticized previous joint drills as an example of Washington’s continued “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang, despite its talk of diplomacy.
North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to test firing its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time in nearly five years.
Washington and Seoul officials also recently warned that North Korea appeared ready to resume nuclear weapons tests for the first time since 2017.
Last month, North Korea fired three missiles including one thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, after Biden ended an Asia trip where he agreed to new measures to deter the nuclear-armed state.
The combined forces of South Korea and the United States fired missiles in response to those tests too, which the two allies say are violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions.