One day after North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea and the United States fired off missiles simulating a precision strike against North's leadership.
South Korean and U.S. military forces launched short-range ballistic missiles from the peninsula into the Sea of Japan.
According to the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff, both weapons from the exercise homed in on their target "displaying the capability of a precision strike against the enemy headquarters in times of emergency."
The joint military exercise was in response to the North's ICBM test being described by President Kim Jong-un as a gift to the "American bastards."
Korean Central News Agency highlighted that the missile had a carbon composite nose cone that could survive the harsh conditions of "heat reaching thousands of degrees centigrade" to "accurately hit the target."
The missile only traveled little more than 900 kilometers, but the altitude it reached – more than 2,800 kilometers according to Pyongyang – demonstrated its capacity to travel further.
Kim "added that we should send them gifts once in a while to help break their boredom," KCNA reported.
The U.S.-South Korea launches came hours after a joint appeal from the presidents of China and Russia for restraint on both sides.
U.S. General Vincent Brooks, the Combined Forces commander in South Korea, said: "Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war.
"As this alliance missile live fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our alliance national leaders.”
There are currently 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the South as a precautionary method.
The North justifies
The North has carried out five atomic tests in recent times.
Tuesday's launch – acknowledged as an ICBM by Washington – marked a milestone in Pyongyang's decades-long efforts to be able to threaten mainland United States with a nuclear strike. Experts say this missile could reach Alaska or even further.
North Korea's state new agency reported that the intercontinental ballistic missile is capable of carrying a 'large, heavy nuclear warhead' that could survive atmospheric re-entry to strike a target.
Pyongyang has been subjected multiple UN sanctions over its atomic and missile programs, but said it needs to be armed with nuclear weapons to defend itself imminent threats of invasion.
Security Council talks
Members of the UN Security Council is scheduled to convene on Wednesday to discuss how best to respond to the North ICBM test, which Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned as a "dangerous escalation."
South Korea President Moon Jae-In, who supports negotiations with Pyongyang, said the North's "serious provocation required us to react with more than just a statement."
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson strongly condemned the launch, saying: "Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.
"As we, along with others, have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea."
Expert in nuclear non-proliferation, Jeffrey Lewis, told AFP that "The window for negotiating denuclearization is closed. The big point is that we have to accept North Korea with a nuclear-armed ICBM.”