North Korea has apparently fired unidentified short-range projectiles off its east coast, in what could mark its first missile launch in nearly a year and half, according to the South Korean military.
North Korea last tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017 and has since refrained from launches amid unprecedented diplomatic talks between President Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.
“There is a possibility North Korea has fired multiple short-range missiles,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted a military source as saying.
The South Korean military’s joint chiefs of staff later adjusted their wording from “missiles” to “projectiles,” saying they were still working to determine what exactly was fired. The shift in wording may reflect South Korea’s concern over how news of the test is received by Washington.
The launch, if verified, would probably mark a continued return to low-level provocations from North Korea, expressing its displeasure at the stalled talks with the U.S. since a summit between Trump and Kim over the North’s nuclear program ended without a deal in February.
Saturday’s launch comes after Kim last month oversaw a test of a new unspecified “tactical guided weapon” capable of carrying a “powerful warhead.”
Kim said in April 2018 that North Korea had completed its missile program and no longer needed to conduct nuclear or ballistic missile tests. Recent military actions by the North stop short of violating that self-imposed ban but nonetheless are a reminder of what a North Korean official has warned would be “undesired consequences” should nuclear talks collapse.
Trump has touted the missile moratorium as a sign that his engagement with North Korea was working, saying Kim pledged to him in Hanoi that the moratorium would stand.
In a speech before the North Korean legislative body last month, Kim said he was willing to wait until the year’s end for a breakthrough in talks with the U.S.
“As blowing winds create waves, the more explicit the U.S.’s hostile policies toward North Korea become, we will act accordingly,” he said in the speech.
Trump administration officials have said the ball is in North Korea’s court after the talks in Vietnam fell apart because Kim was willing to discuss only a portion of the nation’s nuclear arsenal while seeking large-scale sanctions relief.