South Korea and the U.S. made a joint show of force on Monday by launching eight ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in a 10-minute period. The tests came a day after North Korea made a public display of its latest missile launches.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea’s military said the exercise included eight Army Tactical Missile System missiles and acknowledged that the launches were conducted to show the country’s ability to respond effectively and rapidly to any North Korean attack.
One day before the tests, North Korea was detected firing eight missiles of their own over a 35-minute period from four different facilities spread from the eastern to western coastal parts of the peninsula. The Northern launches appeared to be a record for ballistic missile tests for the reclusive dictatorship in a single day.
The North Korean launches marked their 18th set of missile tests so far this year. This year has also seen their first tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles in almost five years. As Kim Jong Un ramps up the tensions with the South, U.S. military intelligence has indicated that the North is likely preparing its first nuclear weapons test since September 2017.
A similar joint live-fire drill was conducted by U.S. and South Korean forces last month as Joe Biden was winding up his trip to Japan and South Korea. Those tests also followed shortly behind a North Korean missile launch.
The most recent North Korean launches came shortly after American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan wrapped up a joint naval drill with South Korea that lasted three days in the Philippine Sea. That was the two nations’ first joint exercise involving an aircraft carrier since November 2017.
Over at least the last ten years, North Korea has responded to joint American and South Korean exercises with its own missile tests. Those tests have been seen as simulations of a Northern attack on ports in South Korea and U.S. facilities in Japan.
The U.S. has said it will press for additional international sanctions against North Korea if it conducts any further nuclear tests. However, the U.N. Security Council permanent member nations are divided about additional sanctions.
Russia and China recently vetoed a resolution forwarded by the U.S. that would have imposed sanctions in response to last month’s missile tests. Those two nations insisted that the U.S. should attempt further diplomatic efforts toward North Korea before new sanctions are considered.