North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles early on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, only days after it launched two similar missiles intended to pressure South Korea and the United States to stop upcoming military drills.
The latest launches were from the Wonsan area on North Korea’s east coast, the same area from where missiles were fired last week, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. It said it was monitoring in case of more launches.
The JCS said later the North had fired ballistic missiles that flew about 250 km (155 miles) and that they appeared to be similar to those launched last week.
Wednesday’s launch follows ballistic missile firings on July 25, North Korea’ first missile tests since leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met on June 30 and agreed to revive stalled denuclearization talks.
“North Korea’s actions do not help ease military tensions, nor do they help keep the momentum for talks that are under way,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters. She urged North Korea to halt the missile launches.
The White House, the Pentagon and the US State Department did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both played down last week’s launches and Pompeo has continued to express hope for a diplomatic way forward with North Korea.
Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesman for US military forces in South Korea, said: “We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea and we will continue to monitor the situation.”
A South Korean defense official said initial estimates showed the missiles fired on Wednesday could be similar to those last week, although they were still working to confirm details.
Dubbed the KN-23, those missiles are designed to evade missile defense systems by being easier to hide, launch, and maneuver in flight, experts said.
Kim described the two KN-23s launched last week as having a “low-altitude gliding and leaping flight” pattern that would make them hard to intercept.
Analysts said the range and altitude of Wednesday’s flights could indicate a test of those capabilities.
South Korean defense minister Jeong Kyeong-doo told a defense forum in Seoul that stopping a missile like the KN-23 would be difficult, although South Korea’s missile defense systems would be able to detect and intercept them.
South Korea’s defense ministry also told lawmakers in Seoul it had concluded that a new submarine the North showcased last week was capable of carrying up to three ballistic missiles.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no impact from Wednesday’s launch on Japan’s security.
“We will continue to closely cooperate with the United States and others,” Abe told reporters.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan would still seek a summit with North Korea, without conditions, despite the latest launch.