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Tensions rise in peninsula as the two Koreas fire missiles at each other

North Korea has been testing various kinds of missiles this year (Photo: IANS)

The South Korean military on Wednesday criticised the launch of a missile from North Korea that landed in South Korean waters. South Korea says this is the first time in seven decades that a North Korean missile has come this close to its territory.

Yonhap news agency reported that North Korea fired at least three short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) of which one landed close to South Korean waters. The missile flew across the border and fell into the sea.

The South Korean military condemned it as an “intolerable” act. In a press statement, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said: “North Korea’s missile launch, which marks the first time since the division of the peninsula that has landed near our territorial waters south of the Northern Limit Line, is very rare and intolerable”.

South Korea issued an air raid alert while residents on the Ulleung Island scrambled into shelters. It also raised its level of alert.

Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that North Korea had fired around ten missiles from its east and west coasts. In response, the South Korean air force also fired three air-to-ground missiles toward the north side of their maritime border.

Tensions are up in the Korean peninsula after the US and South Korea started one of their largest joint air drills on Monday. Called Vigilant Storm, the drills involve nearly 240 warplanes with 1,600 sorties.

An annual event, the joint military drills between the two close allies will continue till Friday.

The drills involve coordination between the joint services of the two countries to “perform air missions such as close air support, defensive counter air, and emergency air operations 24 hours a day during the training period”, according to a US Air Force statement. Ground forces of the nations are simultaneously practicing amphibious landings.

Pyongyang has strongly objected to the military exercise. Denouncing the exercise, North Korea said that the US and South Korea should stop the exercises as “military rashness and provocation can no longer be tolerated.” Soon after condemning the joint drills, it fired the missiles on Wednesday morning.

South Korea has vowed to respond firmly to the North’s missile provocations. It also took up the matter in the UN recently.

Also read: South Korea to launch indigenous submarine with ballistic missile capability