North Korea has fired two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, the first such test since a high-profile meeting last month between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Official North Korean media on Thursday described the test of “projectiles,” but Western experts quickly noted that the range, about 270 miles, and flight path of at least one of the missiles pointed strongly to it being a KN-23 SRBM, which was previously tested in May, a month before Trump and Kim met at the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.
However, an unnamed South Korean defense official was quoted by Reuters as saying one of the missiles appeared to be of a new, longer-range design, flying about 430 miles.
The move by Pyongyang is seen as tactic to pressure the U.S. as it tries to get nuclear negotiations with Korea back on track. Even so, it is considered less provocative than 2017 tests of North Korea’s ICBMs, which are capable of reaching the U.S.
It comes close on the heels of National Security Adviser John Bolton, a hardliner on relations with North Korea, meeting with South Korean officials in Seoul to discuss strengthening the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
It also follows a warning less than a week ago from North Korea that exercises planned between the U.S. and South Korea could jeopardize further denuclearization talks.
After a historic summit last June between Trump and Kim in Singapore, the president boasted that he had persuaded North Korea to denuclearize. But a follow up summit in Hanoi earlier this year quickly fell apart and the North Korean regime has shown few, if any, signs of taking concrete steps to end its nuclear or ballistic missile programs.
The White House did not immediately respond to the news, but South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Choi Hyun-soo called the test “not helpful” in reducing tensions between the Koreas. Japan’s Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters in Tokyo that “If they were ballistic missiles, they violate the U.N. sanctions, and I find it extremely regrettable.”
A South Korean defense official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the missiles were launched from mobile platforms at a site near Wonsan on North Korea’s coast.
North Korea has also been working on submarine-launched ballistic missiles and earlier this week, North Korea’s Central News Agency released photographs of leader Kim inspecting a newly built submarine. Although there were no details released, Kim was quoted as expressing “great satisfaction over the fact that the submarine was designed and built to be capable of fully implementing the military strategic intention” of North Korea.