North Korea fired two new short-range ballistic missiles, almost exactly one week after testing two other missiles in an effort to put pressure on the US to stop upcoming military exercises with South Korea and talks about nuclear disarmament.
The missiles fired on Wednesday were launched at 5.06 am and 5.27 am local time from the city of Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea – the same area where last week's tests were conducted.
South Korea said the rockets flew 155 miles to the sea at a maximum height of about 19 miles and seemed to be a different type than previous launches.
North Korea fired two 155-kilometer ballistic missiles at the Sea of Japan early Wednesday, while trying to pressurize the US and South Korea to abolish joint military exercises
It comes almost exactly a week after Kim Jong-un personally supervised the test firing of two similar ballistic missiles from the same location (photo)
Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesperson for the US forces in South Korea, said: & # 39; We are aware of reports about a rocket launch from North Korea and we will continue to monitor the situation. & # 39;
He did not comment on whether the joint South Korea-US. exercises scheduled to start next month would continue.
The Japanese Ministry of Defense said no rockets had reached Japanese territory or the exclusive economic zone, and the launches did not threaten Japan's immediate security.
The South Korean and American soldiers tried to collect more details.
The test would again be a North Korean violation of UN Security Council resolutions that hit the country with crippling sanctions.
It comes when the country's negotiations with the US over its nuclear weapons program get stuck and Pyongyang has expressed anger about planned military exercises in the US and South Korea.
& # 39; The repeated rocket launches from the North are not useful for efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and we urge North Korea to stop this kind of behavior & # 39 ;, said South Korean statement.
Last Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles that, according to Seoul officials, flew 370 miles and 30 miles before they landed in the sea.
North Korea's state media said those tests were supervised by leader Kim Jong-un and were designed to issue a & # 39; solemn warning & # 39; to South Korea for the purchase of high-tech US-made fighter jets and the planned military exercises.
Since the meeting of Trump and Kim on June 30 in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, Pyongyang has accused Washington of breaking a promise by planning joint military exercises with South Korea next month and warned that these talks could derail.
North Korea has also warned of a possible end to its freeze on nuclear and long-range missile tests in force since 2017, which Trump has repeatedly confirmed as evidence of the success of his engagement with Kim.
A South Korean senior official said last month that the exercises would go on as planned, but would mainly include computer simulations and no troops in the field.
The north has stepped up the pressure on the US to abandon military exercises and restart talks on sanctions in exchange for dismantling its nuclear program. In the photo Kim inspects a new type of submarine that the Hermit Kingdom has shown in recent weeks
Although North Korea is banned by the US from using ballistic technology in the event of a possible launch, it is unlikely that the nation, which has less than 11 rounds of UN sanctions, will be hit with new punitive measures.
Previous sanctions were only imposed when it carried out long-range ballistic launches.
Observers say a low-altitude flight through the missiles indicates that North Korea has tested their ability to prevent them from being intercepted.
Earlier last week, Kim also visited a newly built submarine and expressed satisfaction with the weapon system. North Korea said the stake was & # 39; in the neighborhood & # 39 ;.
In a private briefing to lawmakers Wednesday, South Korean military intelligence officers said they have determined that the submarine probably has three missile launch tubes, according to Lee Hye-hoon, head of parliament's intelligence commission.
If confirmed, it would be North Korea's first operational submarine with missile launch tubes, some experts said.
North Korea is acquiring the possibility of launching submarine missiles, which would be an alarming development because such missiles are more difficult to detect in advance.
Experts say that the submarine that North Korea used in recent years to test rockets should be considered as a single-tube test platform.
They say that other North Korean submarines only have torpedo tubes.
Wednesday's launches came hours after a senior US official said President Donald Trump sent Kim a memento during his brief visit to an inter-Korean border town late last month.
The official said that a top National Security Council official handed over photos of the leaders' meeting in the Korean demilitarized zone last June to a North Korean official.
The official from the Trump administration spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak in public.
The DMZ meeting was the third summit between Trump and Kim.
At their second meeting in Vietnam, Trump rejected Kim's demand for widespread sanctions in exchange for the dismantling of the most important nuclear complex in the North, a partial disarmament step.
At the DMZ meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to resume nuclear diplomacy in the coming weeks, but no meeting between the countries is known.
It comes after a spontaneous meeting between Trump and Kim in which Trump became the first American president to set foot in North Korea but made no diplomatic progress
Some experts say that North Korea wants a US pledge to relax sanctions, accepts a slow, step-by-step disarmament process through the north, or that the US makes other concessions as soon as diplomacy begins again.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists who accompanied him to an Asian security forum in Thailand and said he was very hopeful for a quick resumption of nuclear talks.
He said he was waiting to see if North Korea's foreign minister comes to the Bangkok meeting and is convinced that the two will see each other when he does.
Despite a recent lack of progress in nuclear diplomacy, both Trump and Kim have said they have maintained good relationships with each other.
After the launch of the missiles last Thursday, Trump tried to downplay the importance of the tests and said that & # 39; short range & # 39; the most important detail was.
He said that North Korea & # 39; standard & # 39; fired rockets that many countries own.
South Korea's army said the flight data of the weapon launched last week was similar to the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range nuclear-powered missile.
A North Korean version could probably reach the whole of South Korea – and the 28,500 American troops stationed there – and would be extremely difficult to intercept.
Before launching last week, North Korea last launched rockets into the sea in early May, and experts said these were also Iskander-like rockets.
During Wednesday's briefing, South Korean military intelligence officers said an analysis of photos sent by North Korea showed that the north fired four missiles in two days, according to Lee, the legislator.
South Korea said earlier that the North fired a total of three rockets at the time.
After engaging in talks with Washington, North Korea suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests, and Trump said this is proof that his North Korea policy is working well and has reduced the risk of war with the North.
In 2017, Trump and Kim exchanged rough insults and threats of destruction when Kim oversaw a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests designed to build nuclear missiles that could reach the continental United States.
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