North Korea on Thursday fired two suspected short-range missiles from the country’s western area, South Korea’s military said, the North’s second weapons launch in the last five days and a possible warning that nuclear disarmament talks with Washington could be in danger.
The South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the weapons fired flew 420 kilometers (260 miles) and 270 kilometers (167 miles), respectively. It said it’s working with the United States to find out more details, such as the type of weapons the North fired.
The South’s military said earlier at least one projectile was launched from the Sino-ri area of North Pyongan Province, an area known to host one of North Korea’s oldest missile bases where a brigade operates mid-range Rodong missiles. It said later the launch was made from the province’s Kusong town, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Sino-ri, where the North conducted its first successful flight test of the Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile in May 2017.
The launch comes as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visits South Korea, and hours after the North described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise. The North also ridiculed South Korea for criticizing those launches.
South Korea’s presidential national security director, Chung Eui-yong, has been monitoring the situation while communicating with the Defense Ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff by video, according to the presidential Blue House.
There was no immediate comment from the United States.
Some analysts have said that if the North returns to testing the kind of longer-range banned ballistic weapons that it fired in unusually large numbers in 2017 – when many feared a Washington-Pyongyang standoff could end in war – it may signal that a frustrated North Korea is turning away from diplomacy.
The tensions in 2017 were followed by a surprising diplomatic outreach by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, when he attended summits with the South Korean and Chinese presidents and with U.S. President Donald Trump. But North Korea has not gotten what it wants most from its summitry: sanctions relief.
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