After North Korea launched a salvo of short-range ballistic missiles on Sunday, South Korea and the US fired eight surface-to-surface missiles early Monday off South Korea’s east coast, according to a South Korean defense ministry official.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the move is a show of “the capability and readiness to carry out precision strike” against the source of North Korea’s missile launches or command and control facilities.

President Yoon Suk-yeol of South Korea, who took office last month, has promised to be harsher on North Korea, and agreed with US President Joe Biden at a May summit in Seoul to improve joint military drills and their combined deterrence posture.

According to Yonhap, the forces of South Korea and the United States fired eight surface-to-surface missiles over a 10-minute period starting at 4:45 a.m. on Monday (1945 GMT Sunday) in retaliation to the North’s eight missiles fired on Sunday.

The South Korean Defense Ministry verified the firing of eight Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS).

North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles, fired into the sea off its east coast on Sunday, were possibly the country’s largest single test, and occurred only a day after South Korea and the US halted joint military maneuvers.

Despite its rhetoric of diplomacy, North Korea, which is fighting its first known outbreak of COVID-19, has denounced prior joint drills as an evidence of Washington’s persistent “hostile tactics” toward Pyongyang.

This year, North Korea has launched a flurry of missiles, ranging from hypersonic weaponry to the first test launching of its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in nearly five years.

North Korea appears set to conduct nuclear weapons testing for the first time since 2017, according to authorities in Washington and Seoul.

After Biden returned from an Asia trip where he committed to further measures to discourage the nuclear-armed state, North Korea fired three missiles, including one believed to be its greatest intercontinental ballistic missile.

In reaction to such tests, the combined forces of South Korea and the United States fired missiles, claiming that they were in breach of UN Security Council resolutions.


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