In a significant escalation of hostilities, North and South Korea have launched a number of missiles into waters near each other’s coasts.

The North launched at least 23 missiles in a single day. Seoul responded with three air-to-ground missiles fired from warplanes over the disputed maritime demarcation line. Pyongyang then launched six more missiles and a barrage of 100 artillery shells.

Why this is happening
The United States and South Korea began one of their largest joint military air drills on Monday, which will last until Friday.

North Korea also launched a series of missiles in response to the various drills in recent weeks. The North claims the launches are in response to large-scale military exercises being conducted by South Korea and the US, which it describes as “aggressive and provocative.”

Pyongyang warned on Tuesday that they would pay “the most horrible price in history” if they continued their joint military exercises, which were interpreted as a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons. As tensions have risen, the North has conducted a record number of missile tests this year.

Why is Kim Jong-un ratcheting up the pressure?
Pyongyang launched missiles into waters near South Korea on Wednesday, setting off air raid sirens on Ulleung, a Seoul-controlled Island. Residents were advised to seek refuge in underground shelters.

Although it landed outside South Korea’s territorial waters, it is the closest a North Korean missile has ever come.

Why this matter
North Korea has threatened the United States with “severe repercussions” if it continues to conduct joint military exercises with South Korea.

This comes in the wake of intelligence reports that Pyongyang is planning its first nuclear test since 2017. This is problematic as North Korea describes itself as a nuclear weapon state. 

There have also been fears that they are stockpiling nuclear weapons in recent years.

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