The United States and South Korea each fired two missiles into the East Sea on Wednesday in response to North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile over Japan, Seoul officials said. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense
SEOUL, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The United States and South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise and nuclear aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan returned to waters near the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday as tensions soared one day after North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.
The allies each fired two Army Tactical Missile System missiles into the East Sea in a combined drill, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The ATACMS missiles "precisely hit a virtual target and demonstrated the countermeasures of the combined forces to deter further provocations," the JCS said.
On Tuesday night, South Korea's military had a mishap when firing an Hyunmoo-2C short-range ballistic missile toward the sea, causing an explosion in a military base near the seaside town of Gangneung.
The missile failed after launch and crashed into the base, sparking a fire from its fuel, defense officials said. Nearby residents were alarmed by the roar from the crash and bright flashes, local media reported.
North Korea fired a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, a provocation that U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called "a danger to the Japanese people, destabilizing to the region, and a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions."
Biden held a phone call with Kishida on Tuesday in response to the launch, which caused authorities to issue evacuation warnings to residents of Aomori and Hokkaido Prefectures.
The United States condemned North Korea's "dangerous and reckless decision" to fire the ballistic missile over Japan, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
The launch "shows the DPRK's blatant disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions and international safety norms," Watson said. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
The United States held separate joint military drills with South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, the Pentagon said.
"These engagements were taken to showcase combined deterrence and dynamic strike capabilities, while demonstrating the interoperability our nations share," Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a press briefing.
"It's the fact that our militaries can work together across multiple different types of platforms, capabilities, environments," Ryder said. "We have capabilities that enable us to integrate and synchronize and to deter and defend."
The North Korean missile launch was Pyongyang's fifth in less than two weeks, but it was widely denounced as the secretive regime's most provocative act since September 2017, the last time it sent a missile over Japan.
Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group conducted joint drills with the South Korean navy last week, which North Korea slammed as "an extremely dangerous act" that could lead to the "brink of war."
The Ronald Reagan was scheduled to return to the waters around the Korean Peninsula Wednesday in response to the North Korean missile, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The return deployment is "very unusual," the JCS said, and "demonstrates the resolute will of the South Korea-U.S. alliance ... to respond decisively to any provocation or threat from North Korea."