A North Korean missile landed near the tense sea border between the rival nations on Wednesday, one of more than 20 fired in the direction of South Korea.
South Korea retaliated by firing its own test missiles, sending some residents into underground shelters.
This is the most missiles North Korea has fired in one day and the first time a short-range ballistic missile has landed near South Korea since 1945.
Following its threat to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. and South Korea to get them to “pay the most terrible price in history,” North Korea launched the rockets hours after intensifying its fiery rhetoric towards the US-South Korean military drills that it views as rehearsals for invasion.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea, at least one of the missiles launched by North Korea landed in Sokcho, around 40 miles east of Ulleung, where air raid warnings had been issued.
“We heard the siren at around 8:55 a.m., and all of us in the building went down to the evacuation place in the basement,” an Ulleung county official told reporters. “We stayed there until we came upstairs at around 9:15 after hearing that the projectile fell into the high seas.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered a “swift response” to the latest attack by the North.
The South Korean military said North Korea fired at least 23 missiles off its eastern and western coasts on Wednesday – 17 in the morning and six in the afternoon.
Several hundred rounds of artillery were also fired by the North from its east coast into a military buffer zone established by the South, according to South Korea’s military. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs said the firing violated a 2018 agreement.
The North has demanded that the U.S. and South Korea cease large-scale military exercises around the peninsula.
According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South, this was the first time a North Korean ballistic missile landed near South Korean waters.
“Our military can never tolerate this kind of North Korea’s provocative act, and will strictly and firmly respond under close South Korea-U.S. cooperation,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
One of the biggest joint military air drills between the U.S. and South Korea, called Vigilant Storm, began on Monday, with hundreds of warplanes from both countries staging mock attacks all day.
This year, North Korea has already fired a record number of missiles. Attempts to counter military drills have led to a recent barrage of launches.
South Korean and U.S. officials say North Korea has completed technical preparations to conduct a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.