North Korea fired an artillery barrage into a maritime “buffer zone” overnight, the Seoul military said on Friday, after a record launch campaign that included a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test.
Seoul and Washington, which have warned that recent launches from Pyongyang could lead to a nuclear test, have extended until Saturday their largest-ever joint aerial exercises in response to the flurry of projectiles, AFP said.
Shortly after the decision was announced on Thursday, Pyongyang launched three short-range ballistic missiles, calling the decision “a very dangerous and wrong choice”.
About 80 artillery shells fired from the North followed at 23:28 (1428 GMT), landing in a maritime “buffer zone”, the Seoul military said.
The blockade was a “clear violation” of the 2018 agreement that established the buffer zone in an effort to reduce tensions between the two sides, the Seoul Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called Pyongyang’s ICBM launch ‘unlawful and destabilizing’, and Seoul and Washington pledged to take further steps to demonstrate their ‘resolve and capability’ against threats growing in the North.
Pyongyang fired around 30 missiles on Wednesday and Thursday, including one that landed near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said it was “actually a territorial invasion”.
Experts and officials said Pyongyang was stepping up testing to protest the U.S.-South Korea drills and preparing to carry out another nuclear test, which would be its seventh.
Pyongyang called the joint air drills, dubbed Vigilant Storm, ‘aggressive and provocative military exercises targeting’ North Korea, and threatened that Washington and Seoul would ‘pay the most horrific price in history’ if they continue. .
– ‘Against humanity’ –
The North’s latest launches come as South Korea is in a period of national mourning after more than 150 people – mostly young women in their 20s – were killed in a crowd in Seoul on Saturday.
Pyongyang’s provocations, “especially during our period of national mourning, are against humanity and humanitarianism,” said Lee Hyo-jung, deputy spokesman of Seoul’s Unification Ministry, on Friday.
“The government strongly condemns North Korea for its continued threats and provocations, citing our annual defensive exercises, increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” she said, attributing the current tension to “reckless development of nuclear and missiles” from Pyongyang.
In addition to extending Vigilant Storm until Saturday, the Seoul Army announced that the annual Taegeuk exercise, which focuses on “enhancing wartime transition performance” and crisis management, will be held. next week.
The computer-simulated exercise will be conducted to build “the ability to carry out practical mission capability in preparation for various threats such as nuclear weapons, missiles and recent provocations by North Korea”, it said. he declares.