North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Thursday, the South’s military said, less than a week after its leader, Kim Jong Un, oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and a missile.
The launches came as US special envoy for North Korea Stephen Biegun was in the South Korean capital for talks with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and his counterpart, nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon.
South Korea’s president said the tests seemed to be a protest by the North after its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump failed to reach agreement on the North’s nuclear weapons and missile arsenal at a February summit.
“North Korea seemed to be discontented it could not reach a deal in Hanoi,” Moon Jae-in said in an interview with South Korean broadcaster KBS.
The two missiles were fired from the northwest area of Kusong, in an easterly direction, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
They covered distances of 420 km (260 miles) and 270 km (168 miles) and reached an altitude of about 50 km (30 miles) before falling into the sea, they said.
Analysts said it was too soon to say exactly what kind of missiles they were.
“You don’t know what missile it is just from how far it flew,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.
Such a range would probably exceed that of most of the rockets North Korea fired on Saturday from its east coast into the ocean, sharply raising tension at a time of stalemate in its talks with the United States.
“North Korea has returned to its classic escalation tactics from before,” Yang added. “I believe they will keep escalating by using what appear to be short-range missiles, something that will not cause the US to react right away.”
Closely monitoring situation
After Thursday’s launch, South Korea’s military said it had stepped up monitoring and security in case of another launch, and was working with the United States to get additional information on the missiles involved.
Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said: “We’re aware of the reports and monitoring.”