North Korea test fires two missiles month before deadline for US to respond on talks

People watch a TV broadcasting file footage for a news report on North Korea firing an unidentified projectile, in Seoul - REUTERSPeople watch a TV broadcasting file footage for a news report on North Korea firing an unidentified projectile, in Seoul - REUTERS
People watch a TV broadcasting file footage for a news report on North Korea firing an unidentified projectile, in Seoul – REUTERS

North Korea fired two “unidentified projectiles” on Thursday, Seoul said, as nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked.

The projectiles were fired eastwards from South Hamgyong province and came down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

They added that the launch, the latest in a series by Pyongyang, was carried out at 16:59 pm local time – or the early hours on the east coast of the United States, during Thanksgiving, one of the country’s biggest annual holidays.

It was also one day short of the two-year anniversary of the North’s first test of its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say is capable of reaching the entire US mainland.

Pyongyang is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Thursday’s launch was the latest in a series of violations. 

“North Korea’s repeated launches of ballistic missiles are a serious defiance to not only our country but also the international community,” he told reporters in Tokyo.

Thursday’s launch came after Pyongyang fired what it called a “super-large multiple rocket launcher” system last month, and the JCS said the latest devices were presumed to be of a similar type.

They flew 380 kilometres (236 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 97 kilometres, the JCS added.

Nuclear negotiations between the US and the North have been at a standstill since the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump, the US president, and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, broke up in February. Pyongyang has since demanded Washington change its approach by the end of the year.

“North Korea is growing anxious as its deadline approaches,” said Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

“That’s why it’s carrying out these provocations, which is the typical North Korean playbook to get more concessions from the US.”

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