On Saturday, North Korea reportedly launched several short-range missiles off its eastern coast, into the sea.
South Korean intelligence agencies first announced the missile launches—initially reporting just one missile was fired but later confirmed several had been launched.
It is unclear if the missiles that North Korea fired were composed of banned ballistic materials but if this is the case, as the Associated Press reports, “it would be the first such launch since the North’s November 2017 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”
Here’s more from the Associated Press:
The South initially reported Saturday that a single missile was fired, but later issued a statement that said “several projectiles” had been launched and that they flew up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) before splashing into the sea toward the northeast. Experts say the North may increase these sorts of low-level provocations to apply pressure on the United States to agree to reduce crushing international sanctions.
The launch comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the U.S. mainland. The North probably has viable shorter-range nuclear-armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons, according to outside analysts.
South Korea said in a statement it’s “very concerned” about North Korea’s weapons launches, calling them a violation of last year’s inter-Korean agreements to reduce animosities between the countries. The statement, issued after an emergency meeting of top officials at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, also urged North Korea to stop committing acts that would raise military tensions and join efforts to resume nuclear diplomacy.
Fox News adds:
Word of the firings was reported by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, which cited South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The South initially reported that the Communist North fired short-range missiles but later retracted that statement.
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The projectiles were fired from North Korea’s east-coast town of Wonsan in a northeastern direction and reportedly toward the East Sea, the agency said, citing a news release. The launches took place “between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.” local time and reportedly flew up to 125 miles, according to the outlet.
According to the report, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration was aware of the situation and closely monitoring it.
President Trump tweeted, “Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”
The missile launches come amid a larger effort between the U.S. and North Korea to move towards a nuclear-free Korean Pennisula. While Kim Jong-Un and President Trump made strides in their first face-to-face meeting, their second visit failed to deliver any further peace agreement.
While both parties said they were still anticipating a deal and were working towards peace, they voiced disagreements on what the very next step should be. North Korea wants economic sanction reliefs in exchange for what it claims have been verifiable evidence that it is seeking to disarm, but Trump said the deal was not good enough. The United States wants North Korea to completely disarm before it removes any economic sanctions, something Kim Jong-Un said is too big of a step.
And, from the Associated Press:
During the diplomacy that followed the North’s weapons tests of 2017, Kim Jong Un said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs. These short-range projectiles don’t appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium, and may instead be a way to register Kim’s displeasure with Washington without having the diplomacy collapse.
South Korea’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, has doggedly pursued engagement with the North and is seen as a driving force behind the two summits between Trump and Kim.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha talked by phone with Pompeo about the North Korean launches, Kang’s ministry said in a statement. The ministry also said that South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, had a telephone conversation with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea who is scheduled to travel to Seoul next week for talks.