According to the military of South Korea, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) off of its east coast on Friday. This occurred as South Korean soldiers were concluding off almost two weeks of drills geared at discouraging their northern neighbor.
North Korea tested a record number of missiles in 2018, whether they were short-range missiles, intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), or other types of missiles. The missile launches took place at a time when there are growing fears that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of the South Korean government, the SRBMs were launched from the Tongcheon area of Gangwon province, which is located on the east coast of North Korea. This news comes four days after North and South Korea traded warning shots off the west coast of the divided peninsula.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) issued a statement in which it claimed, “Our military is maintaining full readiness posture.” The statement also said that the JCS has increased its surveillance and security while working closely with the United States.
According to a statement released by the United States military’s Indo-Pacific Command, the launches did not present an imminent danger to either the United States or its allies. On the other hand, they “emphasize the destabilizing effect” of North Korea’s illicit programs for developing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, according to the report.
The nuclear envoys of South Korea, the United States, and Japan talked with each other over the phone and denounced the launches as a provocation and a breach of the resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, according to the foreign ministry of South Korea.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile development will only lead to strengthening security cooperation in the region and abroad,” the ministry said in a statement, urging North Korea to return to talks. The statement was issued in response to North Korea’s continued development of nuclear and missile capabilities.
On Friday, South Korean forces were scheduled to complete the Hoguk 22 field exercises, which have lasted for the last 12 days and have included some drills with US troops.
According to the United States Air Force, the Vigilant Storm drills are scheduled to begin on Monday with over 240 US and South Korean jets flying 1,600 sorties. This is the biggest number of flights ever staged for such exercises.
According to the statement made by the air force, the aircraft of the allies would carry out “major air missions” such as “close air support,” “defensive counter air,” and “emergency air operations” 24 hours a day throughout the training period. Additionally, ground troops will train base defense operations in order to increase their survivability in the event of an assault.
North Korea has claimed that its latest missile tests were a form of protest against the ongoing joint exercises, which it views as being both provocative and a dress rehearsal for an invasion. The United States and South Korea have said that the drills are defensive in nature and are necessary to tackle the threats posed by North Korea.
The United States and its allies are of the opinion that North Korea is likely getting ready to conduct nuclear bomb tests for the first time since 2017 (when they last did it).
President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea has said that the North has finished all of the essential technical preparations for an underground explosion at its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, which has been formally shut down since 2018.
Between the years 2006 and 2017, North Korea carried out a total of six nuclear tests at the facility.
The director of the United Nations nuclear watchdog warned on Thursday that a sixth nuclear test by North Korea would be “additional proof of a programme which is going full speed ahead in a manner that is tremendously worrying.”
South Korea has issued a warning that a “unparalleled” reaction from the allies is required in the event that nuclear testing by North Korea is resumed; however, neither South Korea nor the United States has provided any specifics about this response.