Seoul said North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, triggering a rare warning of airstrikes on the South Korean island.
South Korea said a ballistic missile launched by North Korea landed “for the first time” south of the disputed maritime border and close to South Korean territorial waters.
Since the split of the Korean peninsula, “the North Korean missile launch is very unusual and unacceptable because it fell for the first time near South Korea’s territorial waters south of North Korea’s northern limit,” the staff told reporters.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said air raid alerts on Ulleungdo were broadcast on state television and told residents to “evacuate to the nearest underground shelter.”
“North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East China Sea,” the JCS said in a statement, referring to the waters also known as the Sea of Japan.
A Pyongyang missile landed in international waters south of the northern limit of the disputed maritime border between the two countries, the military said.
South Korean President Yoon Sek-yeol called a meeting of the National Security Council over the launch, which analysts called the most “aggressive and threatening” in years.
Japan also confirmed the launch of a suspected North Korean ballistic missile, and the coast guard warned ships to be careful.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters: “We are seeing an escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula and I hope to convene a national security meeting as soon as possible.”
Pyongyang’s latest launch comes as Seoul and Washington hold their largest-ever joint air exercise, dubbed “The Storm of Vigilance,” involving hundreds of warplanes from both sides.
Senior North Korean official Pak Jong Chon said the drills were aggressive and provocative, state media reported on Wednesday.
Parker said the name of the exercise is reminiscent of Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led military attack on Iraq from 1990 to 1991 following its invasion of Kuwait.
“If the U.S. and South Korea attempt to use force against (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) without hesitation, the special means of the DPRK armed forces will carry out its strategic mission without delay,” he said.
“The United States and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most terrible price in history.”
“The situation is unstable”
One of the missiles landed in waters 57 kilometers (35 miles) east of mainland South Korea on Wednesday, the military said.
“In protest of the U.S.-South Korea joint exercise, Pyongyang appears to have launched the most aggressive and threatening armed demonstration against South Korea since 2010,” Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, told AFP.
In March 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean navy ship Cheonan, killing 46 crew members, including 16 in military service.
In November of the same year, North Korea shelled a South Korean border island, killing two Marines — both young conscripts.
“Now this is a dangerous and unstable situation that could lead to armed conflict,” he added.
The test followed a recent lightning launch, including what North Korea said was a tactical nuclear weapons exercise, which Washington and Seoul have repeatedly warned could culminate in another nuclear test – which would be Pyongyang’s seventh nuclear test.
A 12-day amphibious naval exercise preceded the Vigilant Storm air exercise.
Ewha University professor Park Won-kun told AFP: “As far as I know, North Korea has never made such a provocation during the joint exercise between South Korea and the United States.”
“Pyongyang appears to have accomplished its strongest deterrent. It’s a serious threat. North Korea also appears to have confidence in their nuclear capabilities.”
(Apart from the title, this story was unedited by NDTV staff and was posted from a syndicated feed.)
Featured Video of the Day
Gujarat tragedy: Cover up after bridge collapse?