Tensions rise as North Korea launches two more missiles
North Korea has fired two short-range missiles just days after its leader Kim Jong-un oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and another missile.
The missiles were fired from the town of Sino-ri, north west of the capital Pyongyang.
They flew 420km and 270km respectively towards the east, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, and were fired at about 4.30pm.
"There's no doubt that it is a missile," said Yang Uk, senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.
"North Korea has returned to its classic escalation tactics from before. I believe they will keep escalating by using what appear to be short-range missiles, something that will not cause the US to react right away," Mr Yang said.
The projectiles are thought to have been launched from the site of a medium-range Rodong missile base on North Korea's west coast. South Korean intelligence agencies are continuing to assess information on the new launches.
Talks between the United States and North Korea about its nuclear arsenal have reached a stalemate.
The new tests come as a top American envoy arrived in South Korea for discussions on how to break the deadlock.
Last Saturday, North Korea fired a number of rockets from its east coast into the ocean, but said they were "regular and defensive" and not provocative.
US special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, is in Seoul and at the same time as a defence meeting between the United States, Japan and South Korea is taking place.
The launches should come as no surprise. Pyongyang has been repeatedly signalling its frustration with Seoul over its military exercises and cooperation with the United States, and with Washington for what it sees as its hostile attitude and unilateral demands. It warned it would respond.
The launch also comes only days after South Korean President Moon Jae-in secured US President Donald Trump's approval to begin sending food aid to North Korea, and after Seoul also dispatched its unification minister on May 8 to a joint liaison office situated in North Korea in an attempt to restart dialogue.
"For the Kim regime to test more projectiles on May 9 suggests it is not just making a show of strength for domestic politics; it is signalling that Pyongyang is not interested in the engagement currently on offer from Seoul or in working-level denuclearisation talks with Washington," said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
It is not clear how far the latest "projectile" had flown and whether it was an unguided rocket, or a guided missile: the distinction matters as experts try to understand the extent to which Pyongyang is trying to raise tensions and provoke the international community.
Some experts say last week's launch appeared to have involved a short-range ballistic missile, which would contravene multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, but that has not been confirmed by Seoul or Washington.
Ballistic missiles arc high into the atmosphere and are considered more dangerous than low-flying cruise missiles because they travel quickly, can hit distant targets and are harder to intercept.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to play down Saturday's launch by suggesting it was "relatively short-range" and not a threat to the United States, South Korea of Japan.
But the presidential Blue House in Seoul did express its concern, arguing last week's launch went against a September military cooperation agreement between the two sides and urged North Korea "to stop actions that raise military tensions on the Korean Peninsula".
On Wednesday, just before the latest launch, North Korea's Foreign Ministry argued that last week's test was "regular and self- defensive."
"Any country carries on military drills for national defence and this kind of very normal drill is obviously different from the war exercises waged by some countries against other sovereign states," a spokesperson said.
"For unknown reasons, however, there is only dead silence on these provocative military drills and war exercises."
North Korea's military also noted that the "flying objects" had fallen into the country's own territorial waters and argued they did not threaten other countries. It called South Korea's criticism brazen-faced nonsense.
(© Washington Post)