The flurry of gunfire prompted South Korean officials to launch a rare air strike warning on the island of Ullungdo (East) and ask its residents to take shelter in underground bunkers.
According to the South Korean military, one of the projectiles launched by Pyongyang crossed the northern border line, the disputed maritime boundary between the two countries, and landed near the territorial waters of the south.
In a statement, the South Korean president assured that this “constitutes a de facto territorial offensive with a missile crossing the northern boundary line for the first time since the division of the peninsula, since World War II”.
The military said the nearest missile fell into the sea just 57 kilometers east of mainland South Korea, describing the launch as “highly unusual and unbearable”.
In response to these actions, the South Korean military fired three air-to-surface missiles near the point where the controversial North Korean projectile had landed.
A statement said the missiles “landed in the range of the area near the northern boundary line where the northern missile struck.”
The South Korean military initially reported three short-range ballistic missiles, but later said Pyongyang had fired more than 10 missiles of different types.
The South Korean president called a meeting of his National Security Council to discuss the shootings and ordered a “prompt and serious response” to these “provocations”.
The country’s authorities also canceled air routes over the Sea of Japan to the east of the peninsula, and recommended that local airlines “guarantee the safety of passengers on routes to the United States and Japan.”
The latest shot comes amid the largest-ever joint maneuver by South Korea and the United States, called “Storm Watcher”, involving hundreds of warplanes from both sides.
A senior North Korean official, Pak Jong Chon, described the exercises as aggressive and provocative, according to a report in state media on Wednesday.
Pak said the name of the exercise is reminiscent of Operation Desert Storm, the 1990–1991 US invasion of Iraq in response to the invasion of Kuwait.
“If the United States and South Korea intend to use armed forces against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea without fear, the DPRK Armed Forces Special Means will deploy its strategic mission without delay,” he said. .
“The United States and South Korea will face a terrible situation and pay the most terrible price in history,” he said.
According to Sejong Institute analyst Cheong Seong-chang, the shooting is “the most aggressive and dangerous armed demonstration against the South since 2010.”
In March of the same year, a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46 crew members, 16 of whom were serving their mandatory military service.
In November of the same year, Pyongyang bombed the South Korean border island, killing two young sailors.
The isolated communist country, endowed with nuclear capability, has carried out a record series of weapons tests this year and is preparing a new nuclear test, according to Seoul and Washington, the first since 2017.
For their part, the United States and South Korea intensified their military maneuvers in an area that Japan sometimes includes.
The present air exercises were preceded by 12 days of amphibious naval exercise.
With info from RFI/AFP
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