North Korea conducted its second weapons test in less than a week on Wednesday, firing two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast in a move observers say could be aimed at boosting pressure on the United States to set up new denuclearisation talks.
The projectiles were launched early from the Hodo Peninsula in South Hamgyong province on North Korea’s east coast, according to South Korea’s military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The two missiles “flew around 250 kilometers at an altitude of 30km before falling into the East Sea,” also known as the Sea of Japan.
South Korean officials said the two missiles appeared to be of a different type than those launched on Thursday.
South Korea is closely monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and is on standby.
“The North’s repeated missile launches are not helpful to an effort to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and we urge [North Korea] to stop this kind of behaviour,” a JCS statement added.
The test would be yet another North Korean violation of UN Security Council resolutions and comes as the country’s negotiations with the US over its nuclear weapons programme.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launches were “no threat to Japanese national security”.
Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesman for US military forces in South Korea, said: “We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea and we will continue to monitor the situation.”
Last week, North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles, its first missile test since leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met last month and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.
Both Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down last week’s launches and Pompeo has continued to express hope for a diplomatic way forward with North Korea.
Experts suggest that Pyongyang was expressing displeasure over planned joint military exercises between the US and South Korea that is scheduled to begin next month.