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May 5, 2019

North Korea fires short-range ‘projectiles’ into sea


May 5, 2019

SEOUL: North Korea launched several unidentified projectiles into the sea on Saturday, the South Korean military said, in what could be Pyongyang’s first short-range missile launch for more than a year as it seeks to up pressure on Washington with nuclear talks deadlocked.

The United States and North Korea have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in February, when the two sides clashed over sanctions and the extent of Pyongyang’s concessions on its atomic arsenal.

North Korea "fired a number of short-range projectiles" from Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan in a northeast direction from 9:06 am (0006 GMT) to 09:27 am, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The projectiles travelled from 70 to 200 kilometres towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, the JCS added.

In an earlier statement, it had said Pyongyang had launched an unidentified short-range missile.

The last North Korean missile launch was in November 2017.

The latest firing comes just a day after South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Pyongyang should show "visible, concrete and substantial" denuclearisation action if it wants sanctions relief.

That issue was also at the centre of the February talks in Hanoi, where North Korea demanded immediate sanctions relief, but the two sides disagreed on what Pyongyang should give up in return.

Earlier this week, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui warned Washington of an "unwanted outcome" if it did not adjust its stance on economic sanctions.

Saturday’s launch "does not violate Kim Jong Un’s self-imposed missile-testing moratorium", which "only applied to intercontinental-range ballistic missiles", said North Korea analyst Ankit Panda.

The South’s presidential Blue House said it was monitoring the situation and "closely sharing information with the United States".

It later said the North’s launch on Saturday was against a military agreement signed by the two Koreas in Pyongyang last year, and this leaves Seoul "greatly concerned".

"We call for North Korea’s active participation in making efforts for the prompt resuming of dialogue," it said in a statement.

The White House said it was "aware of North Korea’s actions tonight".

"We will continue to monitor as necessary," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Hodo Peninsula, where Saturday’s firing took place, has been used since the 1960s for "live-fire testing, training exercises for artillery and coastal defence cruise missiles", according to the respected 38 North website.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that a "formal training area" was established in the region, and Hodo has been "increasingly used for ballistic missile and long-range artillery rocket testing" during the last 10 years, it added.

Since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump, South Korean president Moon Jae-in -- who brokered the first meeting between the mercurial leaders -- has tried to salvage diplomacy, but Pyongyang has remained largely unresponsive.

Kim slammed the South in a speech to his country’s rubber-stamp legislature last month, saying it should not "pose as a meddlesome ‘mediator’" between the US and Pyongyang.

Last week, on the anniversary of the Panmunjom summit between Moon and Kim, Pyongyang’s state media KCNA said Washington and Seoul "keep pushing the situation of the Korean peninsula and the region to an undesirable phase", criticising their joint military exercises.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump voiced confidence on Saturday that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un would not "break his promise," after South Korea said Pyongyang had launched several unidentified projectiles into the sea.

"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," Trump tweeted.

"He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!" added the US president, in response to what could be Pyongyang’s first short-range missile launch for more than a year.