North Korea delivered a pointed message to the Trump administration — firing two “short-range projectiles” into its eastern seas hours after saying it was willing to restart nuclear talks with the US.
The launches began shortly before 7 am local time on Tuesday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The incident came shortly after a top North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui issued a statement saying the country would be willing to hold talks “at the time and place to be agreed late in September,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The North Korean statement cited recent comments by US officials expressing a desire for negotiations and made no mention of any new concessions.
The remarks, which follow a speech by lead US negotiator Stephen Biegun, represented some of the regime’s most positive remarks about talks since President Donald Trump’s June 30 meeting with Kim Jong-un.
“The missile launches were a reminder to the US that North Korea is ready for both dialogue and a ‘new path,’” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a specialist on North Korea at Seoul-based NK Pro. She added that North Korean actions and rhetoric over the past few months indicated that would “likely entail an arms build-ups and escalated tensions.”
Trump sounded a cautious note in response to questions about the North Korean statement, citing the regime’s continued freeze on nuclear weapons testing. “We’ll see what happens, but I always say having meetings is a good thing, not
a bad thing,” Trump told reporters before the latest launches.
The US was aware of the reports of the projectiles launched and was monitoring the situation, a senior administration official said.
The latest weapons tested flew about 330 kilometres (200 miles) from the western province of South Pyongan before falling into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a flight path consistent with the regime’s recent tests of short-range ballistic missiles.
If confirmed, the latest launches would be the 18th and 19th such missiles test-fired since May.
South Korea’s National Security Council expressed “strong concerns” about the launch after an emergency meeting on Tuesday, saying they were reviewing the overall security situation on the peninsula.
Biegun’s remarks highlighted that almost no progress has been made towards an agreement on North Korea’s nuclear programme despite three meetings between Trump and Kim.
After their latest meeting, the US said Kim had agreed to
begin detailed negotiations by mid-July.
“We have made clear to North Korea we are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from them,” Biegun, the special representative for North Korea, said at the University of Michigan. “We are ready, but we cannot do this by ourselves.”
Kim, who has suspended testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while engaged in talks with the US, has given Trump until the end of the year to ease up on sanctions choking his state’s anemic economy.
Choe — North Korea’s first vice foreign minister — said in her statement that it was “essential for the US to quit its current calculation method and approach us with a new one and we will wait for a bold decision from the US with patience till the end of this year.”