Missile launches hit too close to home . . .
On Wednesday morning, air raid alarms sounded on South Korea’s Ulleung Island after a North Korean ballistic missile flew over the peninsula’s de facto maritime border. This marked the first time since the Korean War that a missile was launched into South Korean territory – 26 km south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the disputed maritime border, and just 57 km off the coast of the city of Sokcho. In response, South Korea fired three missiles over the NLL. While Wednesday marked North Korea’s largest-ever missile test, with 25 launches, North Korea continued its launches on Thursday morning, including a potential intercontinental ballistic missile, triggering Japan’s J-Alert emergency broadcasting system in three northern prefectures. Around 9:00p.m. local time, North Korea fired three additional missiles, bringing Thursday’s total to six tests.
Actions and counteractions . . .
Tensions on the peninsula have heightened in recent months, with North Korea increasing the frequency of missile testing and declaring itself a nuclear state. In early October, North Korea conducted its longest-range missile test, which flew over Japan, followed by a U.S.-South Korea live-fire military drill and then the firing of two short-range missiles by North Korea. The subsequent United Nations Security Council discussion requested by the U.S. was condemned in a statement by Pyeongyang. For the first time, the North confirmed that the missile tests have been a direct countermeasure to increased U.S.-South Korea defence cooperation. Observers predict that the ‘tit-for-tat’ measures between the North and South will continue to escalate as tensions rise.
Increasing South Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation . . .
North Korea released statements on Tuesday and Thursday evening, demanding an end to the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint "Vigilant Storm" drills, the two countries’ largest-ever air exercises, which kicked off on Monday. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has taken a hard stance toward North Korea and expanded defence cooperation with allies. The U.S. and Japan have joined the South in condemning the recent missile tests, which Yoon has called “an effective territorial invasion.” Following Thursday’s missile launches, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to extend the air drills, scheduled to conclude on Friday, while affirming their “ironclad” relationship. South Korea and Japan have also increased efforts to boost bilateral ties, including the South’s participation in the Japanese naval fleet review for the first time since 2015.