North Korea fires 23 missiles, one landing off South Korean coast for first time

  • A missile landed south of the disputed inter-Korean maritime border
  • An air raid warning was issued on the S.Korean island
  • South Korean president vows North Korea will ‘pay the price’
  • Korea calls allied military drills ‘provocative’

SEOUL, Nov 2 (Reuters) – North Korea fired at least 23 missiles into the sea on Wednesday, including one that landed less than 60 km (40 miles) off the coast of South Korea, which the South’s President Yoon Suk-yeol described as a “territory. violation.”

It was the first time a ballistic missile had landed near the South’s waters since the peninsula was divided in 1945, and the most missiles fired by the North in a single day. South Korea issued a rare airstrike warning and launched its own missiles in response.

The missile landed outside South Korean territorial waters, but south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the disputed inter-Korean maritime border.

South Korean warplanes fired three air-to-ground missiles into the northern sea across the NLL in response, the South’s military said. Officials said the weapons used included the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER, which is a US-made “stand-off” precision strike weapon that can fly up to 270 km (170 miles) with a 360-kg (800). -lb) warhead.

The South launch came after Yoon’s office vowed a “swift and decisive response”.

“President Yoon Suk-yeol said North Korea’s provocation today is an effective act of territorial expansion by a missile that struck the NLL for the first time since the division (of the two Koreas),” his office said in a statement.

When asked why the missile flew into the South and had to be intercepted, a senior presidential official said, “True, it did not land in our territory but in the Exclusive Economic Zone under our jurisdiction, so it is not subject to interception.”

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The United States condemned the North’s missile launch and “its reckless decision to fire a missile under the de facto maritime border with the Republic of Korea,” a State Department spokesman said Wednesday, using the South’s official name.

North Korea has continuously launched missiles over the past year in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said.

“It’s never been there in the sense of so much,” he said of Wednesday’s launch.

AIR RAID SIRENS

The missile that crossed the NLL was one of three short-range ballistic missiles fired from North Korea’s coastal region of Wonsan into the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. The JCS later said as many as 14 other missiles of various types were fired from North Korea’s east and west coasts.

The JCS said at least one of the missiles landed 26 km south of the NLL, 57 km from the South Korean city of Sokcho, on the east coast, and 167 km from Ulleung Island, where the air strike warning was sounded.

“We heard the siren around 8:55 am and all of us in the building went down to the evacuation area in the basement,” an Ulleung district official told Reuters. “We stayed there until we went up around 9:15 after hearing that the projectile had fallen into the high seas.”

The North also fired more than 100 artillery rounds from the east coast into the military buffer zone, South Korea’s military said. The firing violated a 2018 military agreement banning hostile actions in border areas, the JCS said.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has tested a record number of missiles this year, and officials in Seoul and Washington say the North has completed technical preparations to conduct a nuclear weapons test for the first time since 2017.

North Korea continues to test ballistic missiles despite several UN Security Council resolutions banning all ballistic and nuclear tests by the country.

The launch came just hours after Pyongyang demanded that the United States and South Korea halt large-scale military exercises, saying that “military unrest and provocations can no longer be tolerated”.

Even as Yoon declared a national week of mourning after more than 150 people were killed in a weekend wave of riots in Seoul, the United States and South Korea began one of the largest joint military air exercises on Monday. Called Storm Alert, the exercise involved hundreds of fighter jets from both sides conducting mock attacks 24 hours a day.

MAJOR MILITARY DRILLS

North Korea, which has for years pursued a missile and nuclear program in defiance of UN sanctions, has said the latest launch is a response to allied exercises.

Mr. Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a statement on Wednesday that the number of warplanes involved in Storm Alert proved that the exercise was “aggressive and provocative” and specifically targeting North Korea. He even said that the name imitates Operation Desert Storm led by the US against Iraq in the 1990s.

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“The inordinate movement of hostile forces for military confrontation has created a grave situation on the Korean peninsula,” Pak said in a statement carried by the state news agency KCNA.

On Tuesday in Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the exercise was purely defensive and had no hostile intent. Price added that the United States and its allies have also made it clear that there will be “huge costs and profound consequences” if North Korea resumes nuclear tests. He did not elaborate.

When asked about the missile launch, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular briefing in Beijing that safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula was in everyone’s interest.

“We hope that all related parties, who pay attention to the political direction of the Jazirah issue, meet each other halfway, and prevent the situation from getting worse,” he said.

South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said that due to the launch, several air routes at sea between North Korea and Japan will be closed until Thursday.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the government believed at least two ballistic missiles had been launched from North Korea, one flying east and southeast.

Reuters Graphics

North Korea’s actions threaten the peace and stability of Japan, the wider region, as well as the wider international community, Hamada told reporters in Tokyo.

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi, Choonsik Yoo and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Sakura Murakami in Tokyo, and Liz Lee in Beijing; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Macfie and Alex Richardson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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