North Korea Just Fired Four Missiles Into Eastern Sea, In A Not-Very-Subtle Message To South Korea

According to South Korea's Defense Ministry Thursday, North Korea just fired four short-range missiles over the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The launch of these missiles comes just a day after annual joint American and South Korean military exercises began, which North Korean officials routinely label a rehearsal for invasion. It's thought that North Korea's missiles were aimed toward the military exercises, but it's possible that the totalitarian state happened to be routinely testing missiles. Coincidentally. During a particularly fraught few days between South and North Korea.

The missiles fired are believed to be Scud short-range missiles, which have a range of about 125 miles. This makes them a threat to South Korea, but Japan remains out of reach. North Korea is still believed to be some way off acquiring the technology needed to build a nuclear missile, but its military is well-stocked with conventional military devices.

Thursday's missile firing is believed to be in protest of the U.S.-South Korean joint exercises, but it could also just be a routine test. If it is a protest, it's certainly a long way off the weeks of North Korean nuclear threats that accompanied the drills last year. In fact, relations between the two Koreas have shown signs of a very slight thaw since then.

Earlier this month, the two nations held an emotional reunion for families that had been torn apart by the Korean War and hadn't seen one another in decades. And on Monday, South Korea offered to send vaccines to its northern neighbor to combat a recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among pigs. If this goes ahead, it would be the first instance of government-level humanitarian aid in the Koreas since 2010.

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However, before we get too excited, North and South Korea still remain at war. Last year, North Korea declared the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 to be null and void.

North Korea's military capabilities are a particularly hot-button issue at present. Last month, China grudgingly agreed to co-operate with the United States to disable North Korea's nuclear capability. China is a longtime ally of North Korea, but with all of Kim Jong-un's threats to "annihilate" other countries, president Xi Jingping agreed that enough was enough.