North Korea fired “numerous" short-range missiles toward the sea off its eastern coast, South Korea said, in Kim Jong Un’s latest and most provocative signal of frustration with talks with US President Donald Trump.
The missiles were launched around 9:06 a.m. local time from North Korea’s eastern port of Wonsan and traveled 70-200 kilometers (45-125 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. While it was North Korea’s first major missile test since November 2017, the description suggested the test didn’t include longer-range weapons that Kim had pledged to refrain from firing.
“We are aware of North Korea’s actions tonight," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. “We will continue to monitor as necessary."
US National Security Adviser John Bolton briefed the president about the launch, according to a senior administration official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the matter.
“South Korea and US joint forces are looking closely into the details of the launch," the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “Currently, our military has heightened its vigilance for additional launches, and we’re continuing to enhance our readiness through a close alliance."
Japan’s defense ministry said Saturday that the country hadn’t detected any missiles entering its exclusive economic zone and as such there was no immediate impact to its national security.
Kim has refrained from tests of nuclear-capable weapons since launching an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of reaching the entire U.S. in November 2017 — a moratorium that has underpinned his negotiations with Trump. While a short-range missile wouldn’t necessarily violate that pledge, it signals Kim’s frustration with denuclearization talks since Trump’s decision to walk away from the last summit in Hanoi in February.
Kim has complained about US refusal to relax economic sanctions and said last month that he would wait until the end of the year for American counterparts to make a better offer. Top US nuclear enjoy Stephen Biegun is slated to visit Japan and South Korea next week.
“This is an expected move from North Korea — not too provoking, but urging the US to take a slightly stronger stance than their initial one," said Kim Hyun-wook, of the Korean National Diplomatic Academy. “This seems like a message for Stephen Biegun’s planned trip to the peninsula."
Although Saturday’s missile launch may have been the first since Kim’s detente with Trump, North Korea has announced more limited weapons tests in a sign of growing frustration. Last month, Kim personally oversaw the test-firing of a “new-type tactical guided weapon." That test was the first announced by North Korea since Kim’s February summit with Trump ended abruptly ended without a deal.
Last week, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, and accused the US of “bad faith" in nuclear talks.
Saturday’s launch took place on Wonsan’s Hodo Peninsula, which the North Korea-focused website 38 North says is home to a live-fire training site for artillery exercises.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.