North Korea fires projectiles twice into sea, claims South

Kim Jong Un Credit: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

North Korea has continued to ramp up its weapons demonstrations by firing unidentified projectiles twice into the sea while lashing out at the US and South Korea for continuing their joint military exercises the North says could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy.

South Korea’s military alerted reporters to the launches minutes before an unidentified spokesman from the North’s Foreign Ministry released a statement denouncing Washington and Seoul over the start of their joint exercises on Monday.

The statement said the drills leave the North “compelled to develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defence”.

The North’s spokesman said Pyongyang remains committed to dialogue, but it could seek a “new road” if the allies do not change their positions.

“It is too axiomatic that a constructive dialogue cannot be expected at a time when a simulated war practice targeted at the dialogue partner is being conducted,” the statement said.

“We remain unchanged in our stand to resolve the issues through dialogue. But the dynamics of dialogue will be more invisible as long as the hostile military moves continue.”

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the two projectiles the North flew cross-country were likely short-range ballistic missiles.

They were launched early on Tuesday from an area near the North’s western coast and travelled about 279 miles before landing in waters off the country’s eastern coast, the JCS said.

It said the projectiles showed similar flight characteristics to short-range missiles North Korea fired on July 25, which travelled about 373 miles during launches the North described as a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its plans to continue military drills with the United States.

Experts say the North’s weapons display could intensify in coming months if progress is not made on the nuclear talks.

The allies have scaled down their major military exercises and stopped regional dispatches of US strategic assets such as long-range bombers and aircraft carriers since the first summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump in June 2018 in Singapore to create space for diplomacy.

The North insists even the downsized drills violate agreements between Mr Kim and Mr Trump, who in Singapore vowed to improve bilateral ties and issued a vague statement on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.

Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill since the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament.

The North’s recent weapons tests have dampened the optimism that followed the third summit between the two men on June 30 at the inter-Korean border.

The leaders agreed to resume working-level nuclear talks that stalled since February, but there have been no known meetings between the two sides since then.