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ConflictsNorth Korea

North Korea missile launch forces island dwellers to shelter

November 2, 2022

Residents on the South Korean island of Ulleung were told to shelter underground as Korean and Japanese authorities detected new ballistic missile launches from North Korea.

Air raid alarm lifted People watch the news on the lifting of an air raid alarm
North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles in recent monthsImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

North Korea fired at least 17 missiles on Wednesday, South Korea's military said, causing Ulleung Island to the east of the mainland to be placed under an air raid warning.

It is the first time an apparent test had landed so near South Korean waters, prompting South Korea to issue the rare alert and launch its own missiles in protest.

What do we know so far?

Residents on Ulleung Island were told to take refuge in underground shelters and await updates when the alarm was raised.

"We heard the siren at around 8:55 a.m. and all of us in the building went down to the evacuation place in the basement," one island official told the Reuters news agency. "We stayed there until we came upstairs at around 9:15 a.m. after hearing that the projectile fell into the high seas."

Authorities in Seoul said one of the missiles landed just 57 kilometers (35 miles) east of the country's coastline.

A short time later, the South Korean military said it had fired three air-to-ground missiles in the same area in response.

"The North Korean missile launch is very unusual and unacceptable as it fell close to South Korean territorial waters south of the Northern Limit Line for the first time," said Kang Shin-chul, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The missile launch comes just hours after Pyongyang issues threats to Washington and Seoul to halt joint military exercises around the peninsula. It is the latest in a spate of tests carried out by the isolated regime in recent months.

North Korea also conducted an artillery barrage, firing into a maritime "buffer zone" established up in 2018.

Pyongyang ramps up threats

In a statement made earlier on Tuesday, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, demanded the United States and South Korea stop their "frantic" and "provocative" wargames in the region.

"If the US and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK without any fear, the special means of the DPRK's armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay and the US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history," Pak said, using the initials of North Korea's official name.

He added that it "is a big mistake to accept this as a threat warning only."

Later on Tuesday, the White House denied any attempt at provocation.

"We have made clear that we have no hostile intent towards the DPRK and call on them to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,'' National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

Nuclear weapons in the picture

Some of North Korea's recent missile tests have included mock nuclear warheads, and Pyongyang recently passed laws allowing for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.

Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University, told the AFP news agency that Wednesday's missile launches were unusual.

"As far as I can remember, North Korea has never made such a provocation when South Korea and the US were holding their joint drills," he said.

"Pyongyang seems to have completed its most powerful deterrent. This is a serious threat. The North also seems confident in their nuclear capabilities." 

zc/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)