SEOUL • North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles from South Hwanghae province into the sea to the east early yesterday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, as the North's Foreign Ministry protested against joint US-South Korea military drills as violations of diplomatic agreements.
Criticising the allies' joint drills and adoption of high-tech weapons, North Korea has fired a series of missiles and rockets since leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump agreed at a June 30 meeting to revive stalled denuclearisation talks.
Mr Trump has played down the tests by saying they did not break any agreement he had with Mr Kim, but the talks have yet to resume and analysts believe the tests are designed both to improve North Korean military capabilities and to pressure Washington into offering more concessions.
North Korea remains unchanged in its commitment to resolve the issues through dialogue, but "will be compelled to seek a new road as we have already indicated", if South Korea and the US continue with hostile military moves, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement released through state news agency KCNA.
The arrival of new, US-made F-35A stealth fighters in South Korea, the visit of an American nuclear-powered submarine to a South Korean port, and US tests of ballistic missiles are among the steps that have forced North Korea to continue its own weapons development, the spokesman said.
"The US and South Korean authorities remain outwardly talkative about dialogue," the spokesman said. "But when they sit back, they sharpen a sword to do us harm."
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman told a regular press briefing on Monday that the allies were "preparing for a joint exercise in the latter half of the year", but would not confirm the name of the exercise or whether it has already started. South Korean media reported that US-South Korea joint military exercises had de facto begun on Monday, to verify the South Korean military's basic operational capability for the transfer of wartime operational control.
North Korea has generated an estimated US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) for its weapons of mass destruction programmes using "widespread and increasingly sophisticated" cyber attacks to steal from banks and cryptocurrency exchanges, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Monday.
Pyongyang also "continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes, although it did not conduct a nuclear test or ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) launch", said the report to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee by independent experts monitoring compliance over the past six months.
The experts said they are probing "at least 35 reported instances of DPRK actors attacking financial institutions, cryptocurrency exchanges and mining activity designed to earn foreign currency" in some 17 nations, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK. They said the North's attacks against cryptocurrency exchanges allowed it "to generate income in ways that are harder to trace and subject to less government oversight and regulation than the traditional banking sector".
The Security Council imposed sanctions on North Korea to choke funding for Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The UN report was completed before last week's missile launches by North Korea, but noted that "missile launches in May and July enhanced its overall ballistic missile capabilities".