SEOUL — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast early Thursday, South Korea said, a move apparently aimed at increasing Pyongyang’s leverage in nuclear talks with the United States.
South Korea’s National Security Council determined North Korea fired a “new type of short-range ballistic missile,” the presidential Blue House said in a message to reporters. The NSC expressed “strong concern” about the launch, saying it does not help reduce military tensions.
The missiles were launched from around North Korea’s eastern city of Wonsan in an eastward direction before splashing into the sea, South Korea’s military said. The first missile traveled an estimated 430 kilometers and the second traveled 690 kilometers, it added.
Seoul earlier estimated that both missiles traveled 430 kilometers, leading some observers to compare the projectiles to the short-range, quasi-ballistic missiles that North Korea tested in May. Those missiles had an estimated range of 450 kilometers.
South Korea appears to view the latest missile test as a more serious escalation. After the May launch, it took weeks before South Korean officials referred to the weapons as “missiles,” instead of the more innocuous sounding “projectiles.” This time, Seoul is referring to the projectiles as “ballistic missiles,” which would represent a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
A senior U.S. administration official said, “We are aware of reports of a short-range projectile launched from North Korea.”
The launches underscore the failure of U.S. officials to advance working-level nuclear talks with North Korea, despite three meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It has been less than a month since Trump shook hands with Kim at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas — a meeting White House officials portrayed at the time as a breakthrough.
Since then, North Korea has not responded to U.S. requests to begin working-level negotiations. Instead, the North has continued escalating provocations and threats, in what analysts say is an attempt to improve its negotiating position.
Last week, North Korea’s foreign ministry hinted Pyongyang could forego the talks, and may resume intercontinental ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, if the United States and South Korea go ahead with planned joint military exercises