North Korea fires ballistic missiles again, South Korea says, and U.S. and South conduct military exercises
North Korea continued to ramp up its weapons demonstrations by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea Tuesday, South Korea said. This, as Pyongyang lashed out at the U.S and South Korea for continuing military exercises that the North says could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy.
North Korea’s fourth round of weapons launches in less than two weeks came amid a standstill in nuclear negotiations and after President Trump repeatedly dismissed the significance of the country’s recent tests despite the threat the weapons pose to ally South Korea and U.S. bases there.Experts say Mr. Trump’s downplaying of the North’s weapons display has allowed the country more room to advance its military capabilities as it attempts to build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could possibly resume sometime after the end of the allies’ drills later this month.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan Tuesday that Washington won’t overreact to the series of missiles launches by Pyongyang and would keep the door open to talks with the North, the Reuters news agency reports.Esper confirmed that the exercises with South Korea, which mostly involved computer simulations, had begun, Reuters said.The drills weren’t expected to involve actual combat troops and equipment. South Korea’s military alerted reporters to the launches minutes before the North’s Foreign Ministry denounced Washington and Seoul over the start of the joint exercises.The North Korean statement said the drills, which North Korea sees as an invasion rehearsal, leave the country “compelled to develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.” The statement, from an unidentified spokesperson, said Pyongyang remains committed to dialogue, but it could seek a “new road” if the allies don’t change their positions.Later, North Korea asserted that Washington is “inciting tension” by holding the drills, Reuters reports. It quotes Ju Yong Chol, a North Korean diplomat at the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that Pyongyang would have to “reconsider the major steps we have taken so far.”Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the two projectiles the North flew cross-country were likely short-range ballistic missiles. They were launched early Tuesday from an area near the North’s western coast and traveled about 279 miles on an apogee of 23 miles at a maximum speed of above Mach 6.9 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 traveled about 373 miles during launches the North described as “solemn warning” to South Korea over its plans to continue military drills with the United States.