Following a series of provocative US and South Korean war games, North Korea responded by a major artillery drill. Pyongyang fired over 200 rounds in the direction of a disputed border group of South Korean islands. Seoul subsequently ordered the evacuation of residents of two islands.
On Friday, North Korean forces fired artillery toward South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island group. In a statement published on North Korean state media, Pyongyang said its military “staged a naval live-shell firing drill into five districts with 192 shells by mobilizing 47 cannons of various calibers of 13 companies and 1 platoon force from 09:00 to 11:00 on January 5.”
Seoul responded by ordering the evacuation of the island and holding live-fire military exercises. Pyongyang said Seoul overreacted to the North Korean drills. “The claim of the military gangsters of the Republic of Korea that the KPA fired naval artillery shells into the waters north of Paekryong Island and Yonphyong Island, a so-called buffer zone in the West Sea of Korea, is a far-fetched assertion to mislead the public opinion, and their evacuation and firing in return are also a trite method to throw the responsibility for the escalating tension on the KPA’s drill,” KCNA reports. “The direction of naval live-shell firing doesn’t give even an indirect effect on Paekryong and Yonphyong islands.”
Pyongyang said the drills were in response to US and South Korean war games. “The naval live-shell firing drill conducted in the southwestern sea is a sort of natural countermeasure taken by the KPA against the military actions of the ROK military gangsters who staged large-scale artillery firing and maneuvers in the vicinity of the entire border area,” the KCNA writes. “The military gangsters of the ROK should neither say this or that about the responsibility for escalating tension nor bring misfortune on themselves.”
In the past month, the US and South Korea held a series of provocative war games. The drills included simulating the assassination of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, submarine live-fire drills, and joint war games with the US involving heavy weapons near the shared Korean border.
Since taking office, President Joe Biden has restarted war games and strategic weapons deployments to the Korean Peninsula that were paused under President Donald Trump. During the Trump presidency, Washington and Pyongyang were in a historic period of diplomacy and demilitarization.