Update: In addition to the four ATACMS, South Korea fired at least one short-range Hyumoo-2 ballistic missile. South Korea has confirmed the missile malfunctioned and crashed within its territory.
Washington and Seoul once again escalated military activity on the Korean Peninsula by firing four missiles and carrying out precision bombing drills. Under President Joe Biden, the US has attempted to use displays of military force to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. So far, Pyongyang has responded with retaliatory displays of its military abilities.
On Tuesday morning, Pyongyang launched a missile that flew over Japanese territory. The projectile caused Tokyo to tell citizens to take shelter. North Korea carried out the test after a US aircraft carrier conducted war games in South Korea.
During a period of warming relations between Seoul, Washington and Pyongyang from 2018-2020, the US and South Korea curtailed joint military drills, and North Korea halted missile tests. In May, the US, South Korea and Japan signed a trilateral military agreement which Pyongyang denounced as a White House effort to create a NATO-like alliance in the Pacific.
Seoul and Washington’s initial response to Tuesday’s test fire was to conduct bombing exercises. South Korean F-16s worked with the American military to simulate bombing North Korea.
Then, the US and South Korea fired Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) into the sea on Wednesday. Kiev has requested the ATACMS missiles because the munition can be fired nearly 200 miles. The Joe Biden White House has resisted sending the weapons due to the fear Kiev will use them to attack Russian territory.
Tokyo, Seoul and Washington condemned Pyongyang for firing a missile over Japanese territory for the first time since 2017. The White House National Security Council called the latest test “dangerous and reckless.”
According to John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, the American and South Korean military activity is meant to deter North Korea. However, the Biden administration’s more aggressive approach towards Pyongyang has led Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to conduct a record number of missile tests this year.
Kirby went on to demand the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. American officials have been warning for several months that North Korea is about to test a nuclear weapon.
“As you know, there (have) been indications in the past that the DPRK is preparing a test for what would be its 7th nuclear test,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said on Tuesday. He continued, “If they do such a test, from our perspective, it will clearly constitute a grave escalatory action and seriously threaten regional and international security and stability.”
While Washington demands North Korea abandon its nuclear deterrent, it extends its “nuclear umbrella” to Seoul and Tokyo. Pyongyang believes its nukes ward off White House-backed regime change attempts.