A South Korean ballistic missile malfunctioned and exploded on the ground during joint exercises with the U.S. military on Wednesday.
The malfunction came as the U.S., South Korea and Japan were seeking to send a message to the North Korean regime after it sent its own ballistic missile flying over the island of Japan early Tuesday. U.S. military officials clarified that the warhead on South Korea’s missile did not explode, but the propellant caused a large blast and flames.
No injuries were reported from the incident, civilian or otherwise, and South Korean officials say no buildings were damaged.
Local politicians in the Gangneung area basted the military for its handling of the malfunction, however. Many nearby residents reportedly feared an attack from North Korea, and the military didn’t clarify the cause of the explosion and flames for hours.
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“It was an irresponsible response,” Gangneung lawmaker Kwon Seong-dong wrote in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t even have an official press release yet.”
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The U.S. and South Korea have conducted extensive military drills around North Korea in recent weeks, partially in response to the North’s flurry of ballistic missile launches.
Both U.S. and South Korean warplanes took part in a bombing exercise using JDAM precision bombs after the North’s most recent launch on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s launch flew more than 2,800 miles, the longest flight from a North Korean missile in months, according to White House National Security Council coordinator John Kirby. The U.S. is still assessing the flight information to determine what kind of missile the regime fired, Kirby told Fox & Friends.
North Korea fired three ballistic missiles in the lead-up to Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Seoul last week, which coincided with pre-planned military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.
The USS Ronald Reagan, one of the U.S. Navy’s most powerful assets, participated in the three days of exercises.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.