North Korea has fired what appears to be two short-range ballistic missiles, South Korea’s military said Thursday. It was the second time Pyongyang fired missiles in less than a week.
One of the projectiles traveled 420 kilometers and the other traveled 270 kilometers, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missiles were launched from North Pyongan province in the country’s northwest and flew eastward, the statement added.
The province is home to a missile base at Sino-ri that houses the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Beyond Parallel program.
The U.S. has taken possession of a North Korean cargo ship for violating international sanctions, a first-of-its-kind seizure that came amid escalating tensions between the two countries over North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
The Wise Honest, North Korea's second-largest bulk carrier, was seized by Indonesian authorities last April as it was transporting 25,000 tons of high-grade coal valued at $3 million to Indonesia.
Officials said the vessel was now in U.S.
At the White House Thursday, President Donald Trump said “nobody’s happy” about the development, adding that he doesn’t believe North Korea is ready to negotiate.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to refrain from firing missiles, which he said make diplomatic efforts for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula difficult.
In an interview with the South Korea’s KBS television network Thursday evening, Moon said that although firing short-range missiles does not constitute a violation of the inter-Korean military agreement, it definitely impedes ongoing talks and negotiations.
Earlier Thursday, Moon’s office expressed serious concerns about the North Korean missile launches, saying that such action was detrimental to efforts of improving inter-Korean relations and ease military tensions on the peninsula.
South Korean officials say Seoul has increased security preparations in case of additional launches.
North Korea on Saturday tested what analysts described as a short-range ballistic missile. Before that, Kim had not tested a ballistic missile since November 2017.
The latest launches come as Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, meets South Korean officials in Seoul.
The tests threaten to further upend nuclear talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump.
Last April, Kim announced he would suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. The self-imposed moratorium was never formalized but has helped facilitate the two summits between Trump and Kim.
North Korean state media Wednesday characterized the Saturday launch as “self-defensive” and “nothing more than part of the regular military training.”
?Testing US limits
After that launch, analysts said they expected North Korea to continue to test weapons as a show of frustration at the stalled nuclear talks.
“The North Koreans are testing the U.S. response. They’re trying to find out where the ceiling is, in terms of U.S. tolerance for provocations,” said Scott Snyder at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It would appear that following these tests that the North Koreans may decide that they haven’t hit the ceiling.”
For a year, Trump has said talks with Kim are progressing. As evidence, he has cited a lack of nuclear and missile tests.
Kim wants the U.S. to relax sanctions in exchange for steps to dismantle his nuclear program. Trump says he will not ease sanctions until Kim commits to abandoning his whole nuclear arsenal.