Saturday 19 October 2019

North Korea in fresh US talks - but launches more missiles

Mixed messages: Kim Jong-un’s military launches new missile tests
Mixed messages: Kim Jong-un’s military launches new missile tests

Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim

North Korea and the United States will resume negotiations on Saturday, marking the first official talks between the two countries since President Donald Trump met Kim Jong-un in June, the North Korean government has said.

But North Korea followed the announcement by launching what appeared to be two ballistic missiles off its eastern coast yesterday, with Japan saying one may have landed in the waters of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said officials from the two countries plan to meet "within the next week".

North Korean vice-foreign minister Choe Son-hui said the two countries "agreed to hold a working-level discussion on October 5th, following a preliminary contact on the 4th".

"I expect the working-level talks to accelerate positive developments in DPRK-US relations," Ms Choe said.

"Our representatives are ready to attend the working-level talks with the United States."

But North Korea continued its series of missile tests yesterday. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said North Korea had fired an "unidentified" projectile, while Japan's government said the launch appeared to involve two ballistic missiles, and that one may have fallen inside its EEZ.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch violated UN Security Council resolutions, adding "we strongly condemn and protest the act".

The missile test was a reminder of North Korea's military capabilities, and an indication it intends to drive a hard bargain in the talks, experts said. It can also be seen as an implicit threat that if it doesn't get what it wants in the negotiations, it could ratchet tensions up higher.

Ms Choe did not say where the talks would take place.

Negotiations have been frozen since the breakdown of a summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Vietnam in February.

Another meeting between the two leaders at the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas in June was supposed to lead to a resumption of negotiations, but the stalemate has persisted until now.

© Washington Post

Irish Independent

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