South Korea fired artillery barrages overnight, Seoul says

South Korea fired artillery barrages overnight, Seoul says


North Korea launched an artillery barrage into a maritime “buffer zone” overnight, Seoul’s military said Friday, after a record-breaking spate of launches that included a failed ICBM test.

Seoul and Washington, which have warned Pyongyang’s recent launches could culminate in a nuclear test, extended their largest-ever joint air drills until Saturday in response to the spate of projectiles.

Shortly after that decision was announced on Thursday, Pyongyang launched three short-range ballistic missiles, calling the move “a very dangerous and wrong decision.”

About 80 artillery shells fired from the north followed at 23:28 (1428 GMT) and landed in a maritime “buffer zone,” the Seoul military said.

The barrage was a “clear violation” of the 2018 agreement that established the buffer zone to ease tensions between the two sides, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin described Pyongyang’s ICBM launch as “illegal and destabilizing” and Seoul and Washington vowed to take new measures to demonstrate their “determination and capabilities” against the North’s mounting threats.

Pyongyang fired about 30 rockets Wednesday and Thursday, including one that landed near South Korea’s sovereign waters for the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said it was “effectively a territorial invasion”.

Experts and officials said Pyongyang is stepping up its testing in protest at US-South Korea exercises and is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, which would be its seventh.

Pyongyang has called the joint air exercises, dubbed Vigilant Storm, “aggressive and provocative military exercises against” North Korea and threatened that Washington and Seoul would “pay the most terrible price in history” if they continued.

– ‘Against Humanity’-

The North’s latest launches come as South Korea finds itself 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, “particularly during our national mourning period, are against humanity and humanity,” Lee Hyo-jung, a deputy spokesman at Seoul’s unification ministry, said on Friday.

“The government strongly condemns North Korea for continued threats and provocations, citing our annual and defensive drills that increase tensions on the Korean peninsula,” she said, blaming Pyongyang’s “reckless nuclear and missile development” for the current tensions.

In addition to extending Vigilant Storm through Saturday, the Seoul military announced the annual taegeuk drill, which focuses on “improving wartime transition performance” and crisis management, will be held next week.

The computer-simulated exercise is being conducted to “bolster the ability to conduct practical mission skills in preparation for various threats such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons, missiles and recent provocations,” it said.

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