North Korea fires TEN missiles with one landing near South Korean island


North Korea has test-launched at least 10 missiles including one fired towards a populated South Korean island, prompting Seoul to fire three in return in the latest dangerous escalation between the rival nations.

One of the North’s missiles crossed the Northern Limit Line – the unofficial maritime border between the Koreas – and landed around 100 miles from the island of Ulleung in what the South called an ‘unprecedented’ provocation.

Kim Jong-un also ordered his artillery to fire 100 rounds into a ‘buffer zone’ near the limit line, as Seoul responded by firing three air-to-surface missiles from fighter jets into waters near North Korea’s territory.

The tit-for-tat weapons launches came just hours after Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party, issued a veiled nuclear threat of behalf of Kim – saying the US and South Korea would ‘face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history’ if they attacked the North first.

Pyongyang is furious at joint war games being held by Washington and Seoul on the North’s borders which the regime views as a rehearsal for an invasion. The allies say such war games are necessary to counter threats from a spate of Northern missile tests, locking the trio into a spiral of escalation that shows no sign of abating.

A TV screen shows a file image of North Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a visit to the Central Officers School of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a visit to the Central Officers School of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang

KF-16 fighters taxi at an air base in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, South Korea

KF-16 fighters taxi at an air base in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, South Korea

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said: ‘We reject the notion that [the war games] serve as any sort of provocation. 

‘We have made clear that we have no hostile intent towards [North Korea] and call on them to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy. 

‘[North Korea] continues to not respond. At the same time, we will continue to work closely with our allies and partners to limit the North’s ability to advance its unlawful weapons programs and threaten regional stability.’

On Monday the US and South Korea began Vigilant Storm, one of their largest combined military air drills, with hundreds of warplanes from both sides staging mock attacks 24 hours a day.

North Korea has test-fired a record number of missiles this year, and has said that a recent flurry of launches were in response to the allied drills. 

Animosities on the Korean Peninsula have been running high in recent months, with North Korea testing a string of nuclear-capable missiles and adopting a law authorising the pre-emptive use of its nuclear weapons in a broad range of situations.

Experts still doubt North Korea could use nuclear weapons first in the face of more superior US and South Korean forces.

North Korea has argued its recent weapons tests were meant to issue a warning to Washington and Seoul over their series of joint military drills that it views as an invasion rehearsal, including this week’s exercises involving about 240 warplanes.

F-35B stealth fighter run by the US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 landing at an air base in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, South Korea

F-35B stealth fighter run by the US Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 242 landing at an air base in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, South Korea

Pak Jong Chon, a secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party who is considered a close confidant of leader Kim Jong Un, called the so-called ‘Vigilant Storm’ air force drills ‘aggressive and provocative.’

Mr Pak also accused the Pentagon of formulating a North Korean regime collapse as a major policy objective in an apparent reference to the Pentagon’s recently released National Defence Strategy report. The report stated any nuclear attack by North Korea against the United States or its allies and partners ‘will result in the end of that regime’.

He slammed South Korean military leaders over what he called ‘rubbish’ comments that threatened to destroy North Korea if it uses nuclear weapons. South Korea’s military has warned North Korea that using its nuclear weapons would put it on a ‘path of self-destruction’.

‘If the US and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against (North Korea) without any fear, the special means of the (North’s) armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay,’ Mr Pak said, in an apparent reference to his country’s nuclear weapons.

‘The US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history,’ he said.

US and South Korean officials have steadfastly said their drills are defensive in nature and that they have no intentions of attacking North Korea.

Mr Pak’s statement is the North’s second warning to the United States and South Korea this week. On Monday, the North’s Foreign Ministry warned of ‘more powerful follow-up measures’ in response to its rivals’ air force drills.

South Korean officials have said North Korea could up the ante in coming weeks by detonating its first nuclear test device since September 2017, which could possibly take the country a step closer to its goals of building a full-fledged nuclear arsenal capable of threatening regional US allies and the American mainland.

Some experts say North Korea would eventually want to use its expanded nuclear arsenal as a leverage in future negotiations with the United States to win sanctions relief and other concessions.

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