North Korea Fires 2 Projectiles in First Test Since Latest Talks Stalled
October 31: North Korea launched two short-range projectiles off its east coast on Thursday, its first such tests since a new effort at talks with the United States stalled over the terms of ending its nuclear weapons program.
The projectiles were fired from Pyongannam-do, a province surrounding Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and they flew up to 230 miles before landing in waters between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement.
South Korean defense officials said they were studying the flight paths to determine what type of weapons the projectiles were, although Japan’s Ministry of Defense said that they appeared to be ballistic missiles.
North Korea later said it tested its “super-large multiple rocket launcher,” the same one it tested on Aug. 24 and Sept. 10. On Thursday, the launcher’s “continuous-fire system” was tested, North Korea said. South Korean officials said the two projectiles were fired with a three-minute interval between them.
The projectiles were the first such weapons that North Korea had tested since the country fired its Pukguksong-3 submarine-launched ballistic missile on Oct. 2 into waters off Japan. It was the 12th time since early May that the North had tested ballistic missiles or other projectiles.
The missile launched on Oct. 2 landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a provocative challenge to a key United States ally. Japan’s military said it did not appear that the projectiles tested on Thursday had reached that zone.
“We express our strong concern about the North’s launching of short-range projectiles while we analyze its motive,” the office of South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, said in a statement.
The launchings could be an effort by North Korea to prod the United States to get back to serious negotiations over its weapons program as it seeks relief from crippling sanctions.
After the most recent talks, held in Stockholm, ended without progress on Oct. 5, the North said that it had no desire to engage in “sickening negotiations” with the United States anymore, rejecting Washington’s suggestion that negotiators from both countries meet again in Stockholm in two weeks.
Its Foreign Ministry said that it would not meet with American negotiators again until after Washington took “a substantial step” toward “complete and irreversible withdrawal of hostile policy.”
The Stockholm meeting was an effort to resume denuclearization talks that had stalled since the collapse of the second summit meeting between Mr. Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February.
That meeting foundered on disagreements about how fast and how thoroughly the North should dismantle its nuclear program and how soon the United States would ease its sanctions.
Mr. Trump has played down the recent North Korean tests as “small ones” involving short-range ballistic missiles, although any test of ballistic missile technology by the North violates United Nations Security Council resolutions. The Pukguksong-3 launched early this month was considered a medium-range ballistic missile.
In a speech in April, Mr. Kim said he would wait only until the end of the year for Washington to come up with a more flexible proposal.
North Korea has since issued vague warnings that it might end a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Mr. Trump has cited that pause as one of his biggest gains in his on-again, off-again diplomacy with the North.
The launches Thursday came a day after Mr. Kim sent a letter of condolence to Mr. Moon over the death of his 92-year-old mother, who was born in what is now North Korea and fled south during the 1950-53 Korean War. The gesture had raised hopes for resuming dialogue between the Koreas.
In recent months, North Korea has heaped scorn and insults upon the South, accusing it of failing to implement economic cooperation that Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon agreed upon when they met in Pyongyang in September of last year. Last week, Mr. Kim ordered the demolition of South Korean hotels and other buildings in a resort complex that the two countries once operated together.
Source: New York Times / Choe Sang-Hun