North Korea on Saturday extended a recent streak of weapons displays by firing what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, according to South Korea’s military.
The fifth round of launches in less than three weeks was likely another protest at the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States and the continuance of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises that the North says are aimed at a northward invasion.
The South’s military alerted reporters to the launches hours after President Donald Trump said he received a “beautiful” three-page letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and predicted that they will have more talks to try resolving the nuclear standoff. Trump reiterated that he was not bothered by the flurry of short-range weapons Kim has launched despite the growing threat they pose to U.S. allies in the region, saying Pyongyang has never broken its pledge to pause nuclear tests.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the presumed ballistic missiles were fired from the North’s east coast and flew about 400 kilometers (248 miles) on an apogee of 48 kilometers (30 miles), before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Seoul’s presidential Blue House said the tests were likely aimed at verifying the reliability of the North’s newly developed weapons and also demonstrating displeasure over the military drills.
Hours after Saturday’s launches, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency released a statement denouncing South Korea’s recent acquisition of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets and other plans to expand its military capabilities, saying that the moves deteriorate trust between the Koreas and increase risk of war on the peninsula. The agency said the South will gain “nothing but destruction if it treats (a nation of the same race) with hostility and pursues a contest of strength.”
North Korea has unleashed a series of test firings of short-range weapons in recent weeks while saying that the joint military drills between the allies compel it to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.”
The North did not immediately comment on the launches. South Korea has said the weapons tests don’t help efforts to stabilize peace and called for Pyongyang to uphold an inter-Korean agreement reached last year to form a joint military committee to discuss reducing military tensions.
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