SEOUL, June 6 (Reuters) – South Korea and the United States fired eight surface-to-surface missiles early Monday morning off the east coast of South Korea, a South Korean defense ministry official said, after North Korea launched a barrage of short-range ballistic missiles on Sunday.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, quoting the North’s military, said the action was evidence of “the ability and willingness to carry out a precision strike” against the North’s missile launch source or command and support centers.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yul, who took office last month, has vowed to take a tougher stance against North Korea and at the May summit in Seoul agreed with US President Joe Biden to strengthen military training groups and their joint deterrent stance.
The South Korean and US militaries fired eight surface-to-surface missiles over a span of about 10 minutes starting at 1945 GMT Sunday in response to the eight missiles launched by North Korea on Sunday, Yonhap reported.
A South Korean Defense Ministry official confirmed the launch of eight Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS).
North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles, fired into the sea off its east coast on Sunday, were perhaps its biggest single test and come a day after South Korea and the United States ended joint military exercises.
North Korea, which has been battling the first known spread of COVID-19 for several weeks, has criticized previous joint exercises as an example of Washington’s continued “hostile policies” toward Pyongyang, despite its talk of diplomacy.
North Korea has carried out a series of missile launches this year, from hypersonic weapons to test launches of its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for the first time in nearly five years.
Officials in Washington and Seoul also recently warned that North Korea appears ready to resume nuclear weapons tests for the first time since 2017.
Last month, North Korea launched three missiles, including one believed to be the largest ICBM, after Biden concluded a tour of Asia during which he agreed to new measures to deter nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
The joint forces of South Korea and the United States also fired missiles in response to those tests, which the allies say are violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
(Reporting by Jack Kim and Choi Soo Hyang in Seoul; Writing by Lincoln Fest; Editing in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa)