SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - North Korea has test-fired several short-range projectiles, South Korea said Saturday, in what appears to be Pyongyang’s latest provocation following the breakdown of nuclear talks.
North Korea fired the barrage of projectiles from the eastern town of Wonsan into the sea off Korea’s east coast just after 9 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Earlier, South Korean officials described the projectiles as missiles. No other details about the weapons were immediately available, but a short-range missile test would not violate international sanctions on North Korea’s missile program.
North Korea has not commented on the test.
Japan’s Defense Ministry says it has not detected signs that any of the North Korean projectiles reached Japan's territory or its 200-nautical-mile (320-kilometer) exclusive economic zone.
Testing the moratorium
Since November 2017, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has observed a self-imposed moratorium on missile tests.
Testing a short-range ballistic missile “might skirt the line” on that moratorium, says Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Kim has stated (the moratorium) only applies to ICBMs, while the U.S. believes it applies more broadly,” Narang says. “It’s enough to signal slightly greater concern but giving the U.S. an out if it wants to, to dismiss it as not a violation of the moratorium.”
After the launch, U.S. President Donald Trump was “fully briefed” by National Security Adviser John Bolton, according to a senior administration official.
“We are aware of North Korea’s actions tonight. We will continue to monitor as necessary,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
North Korea, which wants sanctions relief from the U.S., has carried out a series of measured escalations since nuclear talks with the U.S. broke down.
Most notably, the North said last month it conducted a test of a tactical guided weapon. It has also threatened to respond to U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said he will give the U.S. until the end of the year to become more flexible in nuclear talks.
U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will not relax sanctions until North Korea commits to giving up its entire nuclear weapons program.