North Korea fires several short-range projectiles into sea
The White House said it was monitoring North Korea.
North Korea has fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
South Korea’s military has bolstered its surveillance in case there are additional weapons launches, and South Korean and US authorities are analysing the details.
If it is confirmed that the North fired banned ballistic missiles, it would be the first such launch since the North’s November 2017 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
That year saw a string of increasingly powerful weapons tests from the North and a belligerent response from US president Donald Trump that had many in the region fearing war.
The South initially reported on Saturday that a single missile was fired, but later issued a statement that said “several projectiles” had been launched and that they flew up to 125 miles before splashing into the sea toward the north-east.
Experts say the North may increase these sorts of low-level provocations to apply pressure on the United States to agree to reduce crushing international sanctions.
The launch comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the US mainland.
The North probably has viable shorter-range nuclear-armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons, according to outside analysts.
Mr Trump said on Saturday that he still believes a nuclear deal with North Korea will happen. He tweeted that Mr Kim “fully realises the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it”.
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. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
The US president added: “He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the United States was aware of North Korea’s actions and would continue to monitor the situation.
North Korea wants widespread sanctions relief in return for disarmament moves that the United States has rejected as insufficient.
In a sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration, it has recently demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from nuclear negotiations and criticised national security adviser John Bolton.
North Korea said last month that it had tested a new type of unspecified “tactical guided weapon”.
During the diplomacy that followed the North’s weapons tests of 2017, Mr Kim said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs.
These short-range projectiles do not appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium, and may instead be a way to register Mr Kim’s displeasure with Washington without having the diplomacy collapse.
The South’s presidential Blue House had no immediate comment on the launches.
The country’s liberal president, Moon Jae-in, has doggedly pursued engagement with the North and is seen as a driving force behind the two summits between Mr Trump and Mr Kim.
Japan’s Defence Ministry said the projectiles were not a security threat and did not reach anywhere near the country’s coast.
Japan will likely avoid any harsh response as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to secure his own summit with Mr Kim.