North Korea fired missiles from the town of Wonsan into the East Sea on Saturday. File photo / AFP
North Korea launched short-range missiles into the sea on Saturday, the South Korean military said, in what would be Pyongyang’s first such action for more than a year as it seeks to up pressure on Washington with nuclear talks deadlocked.
The North “fired a number of short-range missiles from its Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan to the northeastern direction from 9:06am (0006 GMT) to 09:27am today,” the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missiles travelled from 70 to 200 kilometres (45 to 125 miles) towards the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, the JCS added.
The last North Korean missile launch was in November 2017.
The latest launches come 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.
Washington and Pyongyang have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in February.
The talks broke down after cash-strapped 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.
North Korea did not carry out any missile or nuclear tests last year, as Kim Jong Un held his first historic summits with the leaders of the United States and South Korea.
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.
“North Korea historically did not generally test anything while talks were on with the US. Talks are not on.”
The missiles, launched from near the coastal city of Wonsan, flew about 430 km (267 miles) out over the sea, reaching an altitude of 50 km (30 miles), before splashing down,
North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Thursday in its second such test in less than a week, and the United States announced it had seized a North Korean cargo ship as tensions again mounted between the two countries.
North Korea’s “strike drill” last week at which leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the launch of rockets and at least one short-range ballistic missile was “regular and self-defensive,” the North’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, according to state media.
The North Korean activity involved weapons systems at the low end of the spectrum that were not covered by UN Security Council testing bans, two senior officials of the Biden administration told a briefing call on Tuesday.
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