November 4, 2022
SEOUL – North Korea fired three more short-range ballistic missiles Thursday night, after a top North Korean military official denounced South Korea and the US for extending the “Vigilant Storm” air combat exercise.
The South Korean military detected three short-range ballistic missiles being fired from the area of Koksan County in North Hwanghae Province toward the East Sea from 9:35 p.m. to 9:49 p.m., according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The short-range ballistic missiles traveled about 490 kilometers at a speed of Mach 6 and an altitude of 130 km, the JCS said in a statement, adding that South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing the specifications.
“Our military will maintain a firm readiness posture while tracking and monitoring related moves in preparation for further provocations by North Korea in close coordination with the US,” the JCS said.
The South Korean military also detected around 80 artillery shots being fired from Kumgang County in Kangwon Province off the east coast from 11:28 p.m. on Thursday.
The artillery shots fell inside the inter-Korean maritime buffer zone, but north of the Northern Limit Line. The two Koreas agreed to cease all live-fire and maritime maneuver exercises in the buffer zones in a military tension reduction deal signed during the inter-Korean summit on Sept. 19, 2018.
The South Korean government said the artillery firing violated the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement.
The missile launch and firing of artillery came immediately after Pak Jong-chon, who serves as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, slammed South Korea and the US for deciding to extend the Vigilant Storm combined military exercise in a press statement.
Pak denounced the joint move by the allies as a “very dangerous and false choice,” alluding to further provocations by North Korea.
“The irresponsible decision of the US and South Korea is shoving the present situation caused by provocative military acts of the allied forces to an uncontrollable phase,” he said in an English-language statement issued by the Korean Central News Agency. “The US and South Korea will get to know what an irrevocable and awful mistake they made.”
The allies made the decision to extend the combined aerial drills on Thursday in response to the recent continuous provocations by North Korea.
North Korea fired one intercontinental ballistic missile and two short-range ballistic missiles off the east coast on Thursday morning. Pyongyang also fired 25 missiles and around 100 artillery shells over the course of approximately 11 hours on Wednesday.
South Korea’s Air Force explained that such action was necessary to “demonstrate the solid combined defense posture of the ROK-US alliance under the current security crisis, which is heightened by North Korean provocations.”
South Korea and the US on Monday began conducting the five-day, large-scale Vigilant Storm aerial combat exercise to enhance combat readiness and train for wartime contingencies, amid mounting threats from North Korea. But it is unclear how long the aerial combat exercise has been extended.
An informed military source, who wished to remain anonymous, said South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup directly made the extension proposal to the US side during a banquet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the run-up to their annual bilateral security talks.
The proposal followed President Yoon Suk-yeol’s directive to take additional steps in response to the missile launch on Thursday morning.
The missile launch on Thursday night came just before Lee and Austin met to host the 54th Security Consultative Meeting at the Pentagon, outside Washington.