North Korea fires 2 suspected missiles in possible new warning
North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea on Thursday, South Korean officials said, its second weapons launch in five days and a possible warning that nuclear disarmament talks with Washington could be in danger.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons flew 420 kilometers (260 miles) and 270 kilometers (167 miles), respectively. It said it is working with the United States to determine more details, such as the types of weapons that were fired. North Korean state media said Friday that leader Kim Jong Un helped guide the firing of the missiles Thursday and learned about "various long-range strike means," but the statement from the propaganda services didn't provide more specifics on the type of missiles fired.
What was launched Thursday is a crucial detail, as North Korea is banned by the United Nations from testing ballistic missiles. Such a test could result in more sanctions, and the North's so far unsuccessful push for large-scale sanctions relief is at the heart of the current diplomatic impasse with Washington.
South Korea's military said earlier that at least one projectile was launched from the Sino-ri area of North Pyongan province, an area known to have one of North Korea's oldest missile bases where a brigade operates mid-range Rodong missiles. It later said there were two launches from the nearby town of Kusong, where North Korea conducted its first successful flight tests of its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile and Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, both in 2017.
Kusong is also home to missile test facilities that were critical to the development of North Korea's solid-fuel Pukguksong-2, which was successfully flight-tested for the first time in February 2017, in the North's first missile test after President Donald Trump took office.
The latest launches came as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visited South Korea, and hours after the North described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise. North Korea also ridiculed South Korea for criticizing those launches.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy about North Korea's recent military tests. Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that "we're looking" at the situation "very seriously right now."
He said the weapons were smaller, short-range missiles, but added: "Nobody's happy about it."
Trump, who has met with Kim twice now, said: "I don't think they're ready to negotiate."
South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to refrain from actions that could impede diplomacy. In an interview with the KBS television network, Moon also said Seoul will explore various options to help revive the talks, including providing food aid to the North and pushing for his fourth summit with Kim.
"I want to tell North Korea once again that it's not ideal to repeat actions that create various interpretations of its intent, raise concern and risk throwing cold water on the atmosphere of dialogue and negotiations," said Moon, a liberal who facilitated contacts between the United States and North Korea last year.
Moon's office earlier said the North Korean launches were "very concerning" and detrimental to efforts to improve inter-Korean ties and ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Some analysts have said that if North Korea resumes testing the kind of longer-range banned ballistic weapons that it fired in unusually large numbers in 2017 — when many feared a U.S.-North Korea standoff could end in war — it may signal that North Korea is turning away from diplomacy.