The first morning of an annual joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea was interrupted when two short-range missiles were fired off North Korea’s east coast, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to South Korea’s Defense Ministry, two Scud ballistic missiles were fired between 6:32 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. this morning from a post near Pyongyang, landing roughly 300 miles offshore.
The missiles were fired mere hours before the beginning of the annual Foal Eagle military exercises the U.S. and South Korea have been performing jointly since 1961. Operations kicked off March 2 with the 11-day computer simulated command exercise Key Resolve, to be performed concurrently with Foal Eagle, a variety of field exercises focusing on “ground, naval, air and special operations,” Reutersreports.
The U.S. is taking North Korea’s flexing of its military muscle on the first day of Foal Eagle as a defiant and deliberate denouncement of the annual meetings.
On Friday, KCNA, North Korea’s official news organization, quoted an article from the Worker’s Party newspaper saying the country would “wage a merciless sacred war against the U.S. now that the latter has chosen confrontation.”
Insisting the war games exist purely to prepare South Korea for imminent war, its northern neighbor has vocally opposed Foal Eagle many times in the past, Reuters notes. Military threats from North Korea are thus something the international community has come to expect this time of year.
According to the Guardian, during the 2013 drills, North Korea evoked its right to “pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the headquarters of the aggressors,” claiming the U.S. was threatening nuclear war with the country. The statement prompted the U.N. to slap new sanctions on the country for their recent nuclear tests.
In denouncing the 2013 exercises, North Korea deemed “invalid” the armistice agreement which ended the conflict of 1950-1953. Since the two countries never signed a peace treaty, they remain, technically, at war.
As Al Jazeerareports, the U.S. prohibits North Korea from using long-range, but not short-range, missiles, meaning this morning’s demonstration did not violate international sanctions.
What it did was remind South Korea that if nuclear war is imminent, its neighbor to the north is willing and waiting.
According to the Guardian, both South Korea and the US insist the exercises are “defensive in nature,” intended to “play out various scenarios to combat a North Korean invasion.”
Photo Credit: Daily Mail