North Korea fired two missiles off its east coast early Thursday, the South Korean military said, appearing to escalate tensions as nuclear talks with the U.S. were to resume after President Trump’s surprise summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The missiles were fired at 5:34 and 5:57 a.m. and traveled about 270 miles before landing in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, according to the South Korean military. The test, the third since May, followed complaints in North Korean state media about joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea slated to take place in August.
North Korea this week unveiled a “newly built” submarine probably capable of carrying ballistic missiles. State media showed Kim inspecting the site, accompanied by his weapons experts.
Trump, after an impromptu, heavily photographed meeting with Kim at the border between North and South Korea late last month, had said working-level talks to hammer out a nuclear deal would resume in a few weeks. The talks had been on ice since the second summit between Trump and Kim, held in Hanoi in February, ended without a deal.
This week’s escalations appear to cast doubt on the resumption of talks, yet stopped short of violating Kim’s self-imposed moratorium on the testing of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Trump has repeatedly pointed to the moratorium as a sign he had dramatically improved the security on the Korean peninsula through his personal diplomacy with Kim.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry official issued a statement last week warning that the planned U.S.-South Korea exercises could derail negotiations. Even though the exercises have been scaled back amid Trump’s summits with Kim, they would be “violating the commitment made at the top level,” the official said.
Trump had announced in June last year after meeting with Kim that the exercises would be suspended.
The launches took place as Trump’s national security advisor, John Bolton, was in Seoul meeting with South Korean officials.