SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korea and the United States fired eight surface-to-surface missiles early on Monday (June 6) off South Korea’s east coast after North Korea launched a barrage of short range ballistic missiles on Sunday, a South Korea defence ministry official said.
The action is a demonstration of “the capability and readiness to carry out precision strike” against the source of North Korea’s missile launches or the command and support centres, Yonhap news agency cited the South Korean military as saying.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office last month, has vowed to take a tougher line against the North and agreed with US President Joe Biden at a May summit in Seoul to upgrade joint military drills and their combined deterrence posture.
The militaries of South Korea and the United States fired eight surface-to-surface missiles for about 10 minutes starting 4.45am on Monday in response to the eight missiles fired by the North on Sunday, Yonhap reported.
An official from South Korea’s Defence Ministry confirmed eight Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) had been fired.
North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles, fired towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday, were likely its largest single test and came a day after South Korea and the United States ended joint military drills.
North Korea, which is several weeks into battling its first known outbreak of Covid-19, has criticised previous joint drills as an example of Washington’s continued “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang, despite its talk of diplomacy.
North Korea has conducted a flurry of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to test firing its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time in nearly five years.
Washington and Seoul officials also recently warned that North Korea appeared ready to resume nuclear weapons tests for the first time since 2017.
Last month, North Korea fired three missiles including one thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, after Mr Biden ended an Asia trip where he agreed to new measures to deter the nuclear-armed state.
The combined forces of South Korea and the United States fired missiles in response to those tests too, which the two allies say are violations of UN Security Council resolutions.