North Korea launched 23 short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday (Nov. 2), a record-breaking fusillade that spurred a response from its neighbor to the south.
The barrage began on Wednesday morning North Korean time (Tuesday evening U.S. EDT) with the launch of four missiles from a northern province westward toward the Yellow Sea, NBC News reported (opens in new tab), citing officials with the South Korean military. Shortly thereafter, North Korea launched three more missiles eastward from Wonsan, a town on the nation's east coast.
One of those three landed south of the sea-border buffer zone between North and South Korea — something that hadn't happened since the Korean peninsula was divided between the two nations in 1948, NBC News reported.
South Korea viewed this as a serious provocation and did not take it lying down.
"In response, South Korean F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets fired three precision-guided air-to-surface missiles at a target on the north side of the buffer zone of the sea border the same distance away as the North Korean missile," NBC News wrote.
The barrage went on, with North Korea ultimately sending nearly two dozen missiles skyward over the course of the day — more than it ever had before. None caused any reported casualties or serious damage to infrastructure.
The launches continued a busy year of saber-rattling for North Korea, a nuclear-armed nation whose autocratic leader, Kim Jong-un, has a history of making florid threats against the United States and its allies, including South Korea and Japan.
North Korea has now launched more than 50 missiles in 2022, NBC News noted. Not all of them have been short-range vehicles, either. In March, for example, the nation tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), sending the vehicle on a 71-minute flight that reached a peak altitude of about 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) and ended with a splashdown in Japanese waters.
Wednesday's launches may have been a response, at least in part, to a set of previously planned U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The large-scale joint exercises, known as "Vigilant Storm," began on Monday (Oct. 31), CNN reported (opens in new tab).
North Korea made the news on Wednesday for a different reason as well: The White House accused the nation of secretly sending artillery shells to Russia for use during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. officials think that North Korea is "trying to make it appear as though they're being sent to countries in the Middle East or North Africa," U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press (opens in new tab).
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).