North Korea fired two, short ranged missiles off the country’s eastern coast as an “armed protest” against the joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.
South Korean officials confirmed that North Korea fired the missiles hours before the start of the annual joint military exercises on Monday. North Korea criticized the activity as provocative and a preparation for war.
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The United States and South Korea repeatedly emphasized that the annual military exercises are defensive in nature and they have no intention of attacking North Korea.
According to South Korean Ministry of Defense, the missiles landed in the South Korean Peninsula and southern Japan. The missiles traveled approximately 490 kilometers or 305 miles.
The United States and South Korea started the Foal Eagle, which involves air, naval, expeditionary and special operations joint military exercises for eight weeks. Approximately 200,000 South Korean military personnel and 3,700 U.S. troops are participating in the drills.
On the other hand, the Key Resolve is a joint computer-simulated military drill, which aims to ensure that the alliance is prepared to defend South Korea to any potential threat in the peninsula. The drill lasts for a week.
North Korea warns of “merciless strikes”
In a statement, North Korea said, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching close the brink of a war.”
The communist country also warned that merciless strikes could be the only way to deal with the United States and its allies.
North Korea said, “The only means to cope with the aggression and war by the U.S. imperialists and their followers is neither dialogue nor peace. They should be dealt with only by merciless strikes.”
Kim Jung-un recently ordered military to be combat ready
The North Korean leader said his government will take every measure to show its military power. On February 21, the communist country’s military conducted a drill that features a simulated attach and capture on the front island of South Korea.
South Korea’s reaction to North Korea
South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said North Korea’s action was “provocative” because it did not designate any no-sail zones before firing its missiles.
“If North Korea takes provocative actions, our military will react firmly and strongly so North Korea will regret it in its bones,” said Kim.
Kim added that the United States asked North Korea to “refrain from provocative actions that raise tensions in the region.”
Japan ledged “stern protest” against North Korea
Japan immediately issued a strong protest against North Korea in connection with its latest missile launches in the peninsula. The Japanese government emphasized that the communist country’s action posed a serious threat to safety at sea and in the sky.
In a press conference, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “The ballistic missile launches by North Korea are extremely problematic conduct in terms of aviation and navigation safety. We swiftly lodged a protest…”
The Japanese government is still conducting bilateral talks with Pyongyang regarding its citizens that were abducted by the North Korean agents, decades ago.
Japan is drawing a fine line in communicating its criticism against Pyongyang related to its provocative actions in the peninsula while negotiating the release of its abducted citizens.
The progress of its negotiation with Pyongyang was minimal since its July when it eased some of its sanctions against the communist country to reopen its investigation regarding the fate of the abducted Japanese citizens.