North Korea fired two new short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, issuing a “solemn warning” to South Korea ahead of planned military drills between Seoul and the U.S. next month.
- The missiles were fired from Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he is developing weapons to stave off “threats.”
- One of the missiles was said to have traveled 430 miles, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, which would put almost the entire Korean peninsula in range of the weapons.
- The test involved “a new tactical guided weapons system”, which Kim said would not be “easy to defend against.” The test was “personally organized” by Kim to send a “solemn warning to the South Korean military,” North Korea’s state-run news agency said.
- South Korea called for the North to end the missiles tests which they said pose a military threat.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Bloomberg the latest round of North Korean missiles tests were likely to be a negotiating tactic: “Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side.”
- It is the first missile test since an unprecedented meeting between Trump and Kim in June at the demilitarized zone – a buffer between the two Koreas set in place at the Korean War armistice in 1953.
The test is thought to be a response to the annual military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea planned for next month. The military maneuvers are expected to go ahead despite criticism from Kim who says they threaten the spirit of denuclearization talks with the U.S. and are a “rehearsal for war.”
The U.S. and South Korea have a longstanding program of military cooperation and drills, but according to Kim, Trump had agreed to suspend the exercise at a summit in Singapore in 2018. Despite plans to resume denuclearization talks, negotiations have stalled in recent months.
The drills have been scaled back to mostly computer simulations.
Despite the North saying it would halt its nuclear testing and launch of long-range missiles last year, there are signs that the country is beefing up its weapons capability. According to recent satellite images, Pyongyang could have restarted production of enriched uranium used in nuclear weapons, while Kim earlier this week reportedly inspected a submarine which could be used to carry ballistic missiles, analysts say. In May, North Korea launched a number of short-range missiles from the east coast.