South Korea and the United States hold joint missile firing drills at an unspecified location on June 6, 2022, in this photo released by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Yonhap)
South Korean and US forces fired eight missiles Monday in response to North Korea firing the same number of missiles a day earlier, the allies said Monday.
For about 10 minutes from 4:45 a.m. Monday, the South Korean military and the US Forces Korea fired eight surface-to-surface Army Tactical Missile System missiles into the East Sea as a response to North Korea’s military provocation made Sunday.
The exercise used one missile from the US Army and seven from the South Korean military.
“The South Korea-US 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 following the Monday launch.
“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.”
North Korea fired eight short-range ballistic missiles toward the East Sea from Sunan in Pyongyang; Kaechon, South Pyongan Province; Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province; and Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province. The launches took place from 9:08 a.m. to 9:43 a.m. Sunday.
The Sunday missile launches were the third missile provocation from North Korea since President Yoon Suk-yeol took office on May 10 and the 18th military provocation made so far this year. It came 11 days after Pyongyang fired a mix of short-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles on May 25.
The latest provocation took place after South Korea and the United States finished a three-day combined military exercise near Okinawa, Japan, which mobilized the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, to seemingly send a stern message against North Korea’s continued missile threats.
It was the first combined exercise since November 2017 involving a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. North Korea voiced stern opposition to the move, labeling it as a rehearsal for invasion and a move to undermine peace in the Korean Peninsula.
Yoon and the presidential office convened an emergency National Security Council meeting in response to North Korea’s Sunday provocations and strongly condemned Pyongyang’s missile threat after the meeting.
“President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered the readiness posture be firmly maintained at all times, and the continued strengthening of the South Korea-US extended deterrence and combined defense posture, including missile defense exercises between South Korea and the United States,” the NSC said in a statement.
The office noted that North Korea has conducted missile provocations once every nine days on average so far this year.
Rep. Tae Yong-ho of the People Power Party -- a former North Korean diplomat -- claimed the latest launch is a sign that North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test that is expected to take place soon. When the test will take place remains uncertain, but North Korea will choose a date that can maximize its political advantage, he said.
“The purpose of North Korea is clear in raising the level of provocations and raising tensions through various and anomalous ways -- it is setting the mood ahead of starting its seventh nuclear test,” Tae said in a press release Monday.
“This means that all 18 provocations North Korea made this year are preludes to the seventh nuclear test.”
Tae said that North Korea is making military provocations to gain an edge when entering negotiations with South Korea and the United States in the future. The country is in dire need of humanitarian aid with the COVID-19 pandemic spreading through its population, he added.
“Although North Korea is still rejecting offers of humanitarian aid from the international community, the country is known to have recently inquired to the World Health Organization on the characteristics of COVID-19 variants,” the lawmaker said.
“North Korea will face a growing need for humanitarian aid if the COVID-19 situation continues, but it can’t be expected to accept such offers from us (South Korea) as well as the international community.”
By Ko Jun-tae (email@example.com