SEOUL (Dispatches) -- South Korea and the United States fired eight ballistic missiles on Monday, Seoul’s military said, after North Korea tested weapons in response to joint drills by the two allies the previous day.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the allies launched the ground-to-ground Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile at targets in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, in the early morning.
The 10-minute volley comes a day after North Korea launched eight short-range ballistic missiles following a South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise involving a U.S. aircraft carrier.
Monday’s launches mark the second such joint show of force by the allies under South Korea’s hawkish new President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed a tougher stance against Pyongyang.
“Our government will respond decisively and sternly to any provocations from North Korea,” Yoon said Monday during a speech commemorating Memorial Day.
Last month, Seoul and Washington carried out combined launches after Pyongyang fired three ballistic missiles -- including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile -- in their first such joint move since 2017.
Pyongyang has doubled down on upgrading its weapons program, despite facing crippling economic sanctions, with officials and analysts warning that the country is preparing to carry out a fresh nuclear test.
North Korea has carried out a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at full range.
Yoon, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to strengthen the South’s military in conjunction with its alliance with the United States. His goals include enhancing missile strike and interception capabilities and resuming large-scale military exercises with the United States, which were suspended or downsized in recent years to create space for diplomacy with Pyongyang or because of COVID-19.
North Korea’s launches came after the U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan concluded a three-day naval drill with South Korea in the Philippine Sea on Saturday, apparently their first joint drill involving a carrier since November 2017, as the countries move to upgrade their military exercises.
North Korea has long condemned the allies’ combined military exercises as invasion rehearsals and often countered with its own missile drills, including short-range launches in 2016 and 2017 that simulated nuclear attacks on South Korean ports and U.S. military facilities in Japan.