South Korea’s military accidentally hit its own air force base during a missile test on Tuesday, according to a new report from the Korea Times. The unfortunate accident caused a fire and sent the opposite of its intended message: That South Korea and the U.S. are ready to respond to North Korea in the event of any military escalation.
North Korea launched a missile test over Japan early Tuesday, prompting the U.S. and South Korea to each launch two Army Tactical Missile System (Atacms) missiles in a coordinated drill. South Korea also launched two Hyunmoo-2 missiles, one of which malfunctioned and landed on its own air force base. In fact, it landed less than half a mile from civilian houses, according to NK News.
No injuries were reported, but residents in the nearby city of Gangneung reported the sound of a loud explosion and a large fire could be seen in several videos posted to social media. The explosion left locals worried that it could have been an attack. Civilians were left in the dark until Wednesday morning due to a news embargo on the drills, according to JoongAng Daily.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Washington Post the missile didn’t explode and that the fire was only the result of burning rocket fuel, an explanation that contradicts social media accounts from Gangneung which described a loud explosion that woke up the city.
The U.S. also sent up Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base in response to North Korea’s missile test. The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan will be returning to the Korean peninsula despite just leaving that region, according to NK News, in a “very rare” move likely to heighten tensions with North Korea.
The dramatic brinkmanship with a nuclear-armed North Korea come as the world is already concerned about the prospect of a potential nuclear war with Russia as President Vladimir Putin continues to make weird threats after he decided to invade Ukraine in February. By most accounts, Russia’s military is getting pushed back by Ukraine’s forces, thanks in large part by weapons delivered by the U.S. and its allies. But Russia sees those weapons shipments as a provocation that could see the U.S. and Russia engage in a direct military conflict if things go poorly.
Click through the slideshow for more images from the U.S. and South Korea’s response to the North Korean missile test.