North Korea conducts new launches, threatens to take 'new road'

In this file photo taken on Aug 2, people stand by a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station.
In this file photo taken on Aug 2, people stand by a TV screen showing a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station.PHOTO: AP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles from South Hwanghae province into the sea to the east early on Tuesday (Aug 6), the South Korean military said, as North Korea's foreign ministry protested 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 to offer more concessions.

Analysts believe the tests are designed both to improve North Korean military capabilities and to pressure Washington to offer more concessions.

A senior Trump administration official said: "We continue to monitor the situation and are consulting closely with our South Korean and Japanese allies."

In Seoul, South Korea’s defence minister and the heads of the National Security Office and the National Intelligence Agency were meeting to discuss North Korea’s firing of short-range projectiles, said Ms Ko Min-jung, a spokeswoman for the presidential office.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the latest projectiles, the fourth set of launches since July 25, were fired from South Hwanghae province early on Tuesday.

The Yonhap news agency in South Korea said the projectiles flew 450km and reached an altitude of 37km.

The July 25 launches were the first since Mr Trump and Mr Kim met at the heavily armed Demilitarised Zone that separates the two Koreas on June 30.

A North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement released through state news agency KCNA that North Korea remains committed to resolving issues through dialogue.

However, Pyongyang "will be compelled to seek a new road as we have already indicated," if South Korea and the United States 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.

Pyongyang has "continued to enhance its nuclear and missile programmes" and used cyber attacks to take in US$2 billion (S$2.77 billion) to fund the development, a United Nations report said on Monday.

The testing of short-range missiles by North Korea is covered by a 2006 United Nations Security Council resolution demanding that North Korea suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme.

Short-range missiles pose no threat to US territory but do put at risk US allies Japan and South Korea and the tens of thousands of US& troops stationed in both countries.

Japan’s defence ministry said it did not see any imminent threat to Japanese security from the latest projectile launch by North Korea.