North Korea tests more missiles amid diplomatic efforts
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles early yesterday, the South Korean military said, only days after it launched two similar missiles intended to pressure South Korea and the United States to stop upcoming military drills.
The firings follow launches on July 25, North Korea's first missile tests since leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump met on June 30 and agreed to revive stalled denuclearisation talks.
The series of missile tests raises the stakes for US and South Korean diplomats criss-crossing the region this week in the hope of restarting talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
"North Korea's actions do not help ease military tensions, nor do they help keep the momentum for talks that are under way," South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in Seoul before leaving for a south-east Asian security forum in Bangkok. She urged North Korea to halt the missile launches.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top US North Korea negotiator were also heading to the forum in the Thai capital, where Pompeo said he was hoping US officials could meet North Korean counterparts.
Mr Trump and Mr Pompeo both played down last week's launches and Mr Pompeo has continued to express hope for a diplomatic way forward with North Korea.
The latest launch comes ahead of newly appointed US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper's first official visit to Seoul, which the Pentagon said was scheduled as part of a tour through Asia in August.
The launches were from the Wonsan area on North Korea's east coast, from which last week's missiles had been fired, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said, adding that the North had fired ballistic missiles which flew about 250km and appeared to be similar to those of last week.